Copyright Infringement Again! – Groove Magazine Germany

(Totally unrelated ;-) Portrait of Mr Florian Sievers – Editor of Groove Magazine

That’s right, words almost every photographer gets used to after a while, “copyright infringement” back once again (like the renegade master?).
Unlike last time, which was more of a re-blogging scenario albeit with some infringement issues, this time it’s in print and with someone I thought I had an agreement with!

To cut a long story short, but hopefully not oversimplify matters:-
Whilst in Kenya earlier this year, I shot a concert at a church in Kibera involving some German and Kenyan musicians.
I was paid by the Goethe Institut Nairobi to document the event. (see the blog post HERE)

Also there was a guy from the German techno magazine Groove. He asked me if he could also have the pictures for a feature he was writing about the concert for his magazine, naturally I said for a fee he was welcome to them.
Before leaving Nairobi I gave him a DVD of the pictures all clearly marked as copyrighted in the filenames and the meta-data with a text document on the DVD explaining that the pictures were copyrighted and I was to be contacted before they were used and that I required a print copy of the magazine and a photo credit.
I even received an email from the guy saying he liked the pictures and thought they would use some in the magazine.
I wrote back saying I was happy and he should contact me when they had decided so I could give him my postal address to send me a copy.

Time passed and I didn’t hear anything, so I decided to Google around a bit and see if he had used my photos.
Sure enough I found a post on one of the German artists management site about an article in Groove magazine with a photo credit (the wrong credit – not the one specified in the DVD) to me.

Then began a round of emails of increasing formality in which I politely asked if my photos had been used, then asked to be paid and finally sent an invoice and threatened legal action.
I was met with denials – ‘you said we could have the photos for free’ and outright lies – ‘we contacted you about which photos we were going to use and we sent a copy of the magazine to the address on your business card’
(there is no postal address on my business card and I never received any emails about them using the photos)

The most frustrating thing about all of this is I would have happily accepted a token payment for the pictures as I had already been paid for them once by the Goethe Institut but once they had started lying to me and trying to say that I had agreed to them using the pictures for free (something I would NEVER do) my hackles went up.

Now of course I am, if you’ll excuse my french, royally F%$ked.
They know as well as I do that the threat of legal action is basically an empty one, sure I’m legally in the right but to find and hire a lawyer, even a ‘no win no fee’ lawyer will take time and money I don’t have and here in Japan is next to impossible anyway.

The only recourse I have is to ‘name and shame’ hoping that my Google karma will place this article high enough in any searches for their magazine that they will feel at the very least some embarrassment.
Not very satisfying when your work has been stolen but what else can I do.

There have been endless discussions recently about the ‘death of photojournalism’, one is tempted to propose that it is people like this that should be charged with its murder as this kind of blatant theft of photographers images looks suspiciously like a smoking gun.

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