The below scenario is not a “one off”. Ed has received more than a few calls on a rather simple con that most grifters would pay tribute to terming it “elegant”.  Simple, effective and most victims never see it coming until after it’s over. One of the reasons is that it’s been perpetuated by recognizable, legitimate companies and ad agencies that are well known.

In many states during the pandemic it is not only difficult to assemble even a small crew and one model, but it is illegal to do so. That such work is prohibited by various local emergency orders, regulations and/or ordinances is not exactly a state secret.

So, with the full understanding that such shoots are an illegal activity, a client, ad agency or promoter contacts a model agency and/or photographer. Offers to pay for the production of a fairly routine ad with a “wink, wink” to the fact that all participants are engaged in an agreement to do something that is illegal.

Photographer, model and/or model agency puts together the job because all of them need the money.  Job shot, photographers fails to copyright register work, images delivered to client and the photos run for the purposes intended.

But photographer, model and model agency don’t get paid. They attempt to get paid. Con man says in effect, “Sue me. My lawyer says you can’t collect on failure to comply with an illegal contract”.  True, the vast majority of the time. So photographer snaps back, “But you’re involved too!”  Client repeats, “So sue me”.

Assume we are talking about a $5,000 to $15,000 job. Any party being deposed or testifying would have to admit to breaking the law or in the alternative, plead the 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Bottom line – no reputable attorney gets involved, there is no money to be made by anyone via litigation and exposure can only bring more agita to all parties.

Typical result – photographer, model and model agency gets burned which is what the client/ad agency intended would happen from the beginning. You would be shocked to know the “legit” companies that have done this. The existence of a copyright registration would give the photographer substantial leverage to get paid as long as his/her attorney was well versed in such matters. No registration will likely mean no recovery. If the photographer did not pay the model up front, both the model and model agency (which is typically licensed by the state) are as they say in court, “S.O.L”