Yet again, we wouldn’t believe it, other than the fact we do believe it because it has happened before. Once more a photographer who apparently had his work infringed and thinks that having the infringer make a small charitable donation rather than pursue his rights in court is a good idea. Yeah, good (actually great) for the infringer, but not for the photographer in our opinion. We have no personal knowledge of the facts but it clearly appears that work created by a photographer was “appropriated”, infringed and stolen, with the guilty party being rewarded. The infringer/thief being the website Buzzfeed, gets a tax deduction, good press, avoids paying the creator’s legal fees as well as a judgment in the amount of many thousands of dollars if the image had been properly registered and the matter pursued to any extent.
Buzzfeed also greatly benefitted by getting many more hits. Buzzfeed makes money on hits, and this is good “buzz” for them. It’s a win, win, win, win for them. Infringe the work of the right photographer, your hand doesn’t get slapped taking from the cookie jar, and ye shall be richly rewarded.
If, as it appears, Buzzfeed used the work without the creator’s license, permission or consent, it is liable under Federal Copyright Law. If the creator prevails he may be entitled to a substantial money judgment, an injunction against Buzzfeed’s further use and payment of attorneys’ fees incurred by the photographer. If nothing else it gives the photographer and his/her lawyer the leverage needed for a real settlement that benefits the photographer, not the infringer.
Many infringers, photo thieves, know all too well that photographers are risk averse and want to “feel good”. So what does a photographer whose work has been ripped off get? A “feelgood”, a“buzz”? We hope his landlord, Exxon station and grocery store takes “feelgoods” and “buzzes” in lieu of cash. Spouses and children can’t spend “buzzes” for diapers or tuition. The infringer is emboldened to do the same thing again - because it pays to do so – only the next time it will be your image that’s stolen.
It is very discouraging to spend so much of our time educating photographers and illustrators on their Constitutional Rights and substantial remedies just see to someone throw them away like a used coffee cup. A company like Buzzfeed, with many employees, didn’t have to spend even a dime in lawyer fees for this, probably took it out of their petty cash budget. In our opinion, $500 is a joke.
Recover what the law allows and then you can make your own charitable contribution, in your own name, and taken the tax deduction for the benefit of yourself and your family.
Photographers who can afford to do so frequently donate all or a portion of recoveries from courts to charities. One of Ed’s clients has contributed about $125,000, the sums collected from infringements over the last two years, to charities, all from infringement actions brought by him/her which settled prior to trial.
A lot of people have been talking about this as a “feel good” story. This type of story does not make us feel so good. Each one serves to eat away at the ability of photographers to earn a living.