As photographers this is something we constantly face in a digital world. I’m often asked if any of my photos have been stolen. I can quickly answer “Yes, by FOX news actually.”
I was asked to create a post about my story – which is why I’m posting this now, even though the date on this article clearly says September.
A bit of back story on two photos that FOX News stole from me for their broadcast.
Beau Peregino, an actor from the East Coast is an old friend of mine. And as a photographer, I’m typically hired to handle his photos when he needs headshots, or images of some kind – if I’m in the area or available with his schedule.
Well, last fall TMC had a contest to win a walk-on roll on MadMen. Beau and I came up with some very simple images that we felt fit the requirements for the contest.
Shortly after the AMC contest Beau was hired by the Bachmann campaign as their spokesman. As in every campaign, there are accusations made in the commercials. Beau’s character of Jim the Election Guy was really stirring things up in the Midwest. So much so that I got a call from Beau one afternoon saying “If anyone contacts you about me, you can’t comment yet.” He was under a non disclosure to not speak of his roll in the campaign, and no one on Bachmann’s staff would comment on who “Jim the Election Guy” really was. Honestly, it turned A LOT of heads.
Check out one of the videos above.
As an old friend of Beau’s, and fellow professional in the entertainment industry, I just laughed and admired that his character was getting so much attention.
Then the emails started to arrive – not many – but they did…
Once the media found out that Jim the Election Guy was Beau Peregino they did what everyone would do… they Googled him.
And, at that point in time, my images of Beau were among the top hits for his name. Various images quickly spread among blogs and sites with silly accusations about him – everything from where he really lives, to his sexuality.
I’ll be honest, Beau and I laughed many times on the phone over the whole thing and some of the crazier ideas people had, what else could we do?
A few news orgs contacted me for comment on Beau and his acting. I kept my word and said that I couldn’t comment, but I would be happy to forward their info on to Beau. I won’t comment on my clients for any reason, both a professional and personal decision.
Now… with FOX News, my images were simply stolen off my website and Facebook page without asking and BROADCAST in Minnesota on their evening news.
I stumbled on that link when I was searching Beau’s name. I started doing that every few days since I was curious about what new stories were coming about about him.
You can imagine how upset I was to find that FOX stole two photos from either my website, or my Facebook fan page without ever contacting me or asking me in any way to use my copyrighted images.
If you watch the video on the site above, at second markers 50 and 53 you will see two of my images.
They even go so far as to pan across the photo AND STOP BEFORE GETTING TO MY WATERMARK!
One of my photos they used.
I was incredibly upset.
I contacted FOX, both the generic email listed on their site for complaints and contacted the reporter directly to say that copyrighted images of mine were being used without my authorization.
Of course, I never heard anything back.
The image above was also submitted to AMC. But the second photo was taken directly from me. The reason I know this is because the image in their news report is the first version of the photo I posted. If you look at the screen grab at the top of the post you will see the outline of a door frame in the shot. I removed/edited the background on that photo later and uploaded it to my blog. However the unchanged version was still on Facebook. And this image was posted nowhere other than my website and my Facebook fan page.
You can see the blog post here: http://www.johnremus.com/blog/?p=1597
So, what did I do?
Unfortunately I was told there was very little I can do.
I was informed by many reliable sources in the industry and I stood very little chance against a company like FOX. That they would assume that someone like me wouldn’t even notice they took my images, let alone pursue anything in the court system.
I contacted some photographer unions but they simply told me unless I was willing to join and pay their fees, they could offer me no help at all.
I shared this story on Twitter and Facebook, tried to contact FOX for a response, and spoke to everyone I could. But, sadly there are times that, as a photographer, you just can’t do anything without a massive budget for legal help.
Since this event (and before) my work has been featured on CNN, AOL, the LA Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of magazines, blogs, and websites in many different areas of photography genres. Nearly every time I have been contacted in a professional manner about image usage rights by these companies as I hold all copyrights to all my photography.
I’ll just have to continue to do my best to keep my work safe. Which is becoming harder and harder in the world on digital imagery and social networking.