How to Deal With Bands Trying to Steal Your Images

Photo by Alex Pines

Photo by Alex Pines

With the recent stirrings that have been happening in regards to concert photography first with Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and then with Three Days Grace, we decided that it’s important to take a look at the legalities and ask about how to deal with situations like this. So we decided to ask our good buddy Nicole Fara Silver. Nicole is no stranger to the Phoblographer, we interviewed her a while back about shooting better concert photos. She is a freelance photographer for Rolling Stone and has years of experience under her belt.

Given what’s going on right now in the photo world in regards to bands, here’s what Nicole had to say.

Phoblographer: Both photographers and bands are commercial entities. How can both pro photographers and bands ensure that copyright disputes don’t happen when it comes to shooting photos at shows? 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm X Pro 1 review images mxpx (21 of 22)ISO 6400

Image by Chris Gampat

Nicole: The internet has been an amazing tool for creative professionals but unfortunately, due to many of the factors that make it so great — the trust is gone. I believe that trust is key in all facets of life, including and definitely not limited to professional relationships. The musician-photographer relationship is one that is particularly fickle and ever-changing. We need each other, and that gets messy. I totally understand why a band would think it’s alright to use a photo because they are in it, but there is a difference between a fan posting a photo from a show on Instagram and professional photographer — namely the image quality. We’re all spreading the love for the band, but one is also trying to pay their rent. Regardless, the band should at the very least give credit if they can find it. If a credit can be found, then you can probably find contact information. We live in a world of speed- where people want things posted right now (if not five minutes ago) but I think it’s worth it to take a step back and send an email and ask. Is there a possibility that the photographer will ask for a fee? Yes. If you can’t pay the fee, don’t use it. If you can’t find a credit, don’t use it. If you don’t want to deal with the risk at all? Don’t let professional photographers into your show.

I think this is a problem that will never fully go away, but for those bands who have a budget? Hire a professional to shoot your shows, follow you on tour, stalk your life, etc and use their images for your social media. Not only will the photos be a thousand times better in quality, but you will avoid a massive headache (or possible PR scandal). Honestly, it breaks my heart but above all else it frustrates me.  We’ve got to respect each other. We’re not all paparazzi. We’re not all out for blood.

Phoblographer: What about aspiring photographers that go to shows and are trying to build their portfolio? Let’s say a band uses one of their images without permission; how should a photographer go about approaching this? Would you recommend a DMCA takedown?

Nicole: I think each and every situation is unique and should be handled as such. How is your photo being used? Is it just band’s Instagram? A fan site? Or is it a real living and breathing publication? While having a photo used without permission is not fun any way you slice it, I think every situation warrants consideration. I’d get in touch with the band or with their PR representative, keep a cool head and ask for what you want (Photo credit? Removal of the photo? $50?).

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm 14mm f2.8 review photos high iso stuff (4 of 4)ISO 64001-30 sec at f - 2.8

Image by Chris Gampat

Phoblographer: What are some ways that a photographer can prevent their work from being infringed on in a situation like this? 

Nicole: Don’t post it. Or post it as such a low resolution that bands can’t do anything really productive with it (i.e.: put it on a T-shirt). Watermark your images, but not in the lower right hand corner in a faint font. If you’re going to watermark, do it loud and do it proud. Pick and choose your battles. Understand that when you post anything to a social media site, or to anywhere on the internet, that these things are meant to be shared and there is a risk that things will be used without your consent. I hate to say it, as personally it took me a while to comes to terms with this, but it’s made such a difference for me and my work.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.