1: the exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.
The word is best broken down as.. the right to copy your work. The most important set of words in that definition? – “…authorize others to do the same”
That is pretty much what did not happen with the SyFy show “Heroes of Cosplay” with numerous photographers. Yes, that is right – a nationalized television show using images for promotion AND on the weekly episodes without written permission from the authors and copyright owners of the images; The PHOTOGRAPHERS.
As you may know, Heroes of Cosplay is using dozens of images on their show to introduce costumes and the cosplayers/stars of the show. Who do you think took those pictures? Not SyFy – which is what they should have done from the start. I mean c’mon, they are NBC Universal – do you really think they didn’t have the funds to properly pay a photographer to follow them and shoot? Or possibly, they liked the quality and concepts of the photographs already taken so much that they just used stolen images from the cosplay community of photographers. But for some reason, they didn’t feel like paying them like REAL photographers – because that makes sense, right?
Now, don’t get me wrong – SyFy used a third party company to get in contact with a few photographers in question and got them to sign over specific images. This small portion even signed away all their rights to the show for ZERO COMPENSATION – Why would they do this? Don’t get me started on that.. since it is a completely different topic on “knowing the quality of your work and pricing your licensing accordingly”. But, I won’t really get into that here.
I couldn’t help it….
This is for the photographers that were not contacted – the ones whose images are being used for national marketing materials and even in the actual reality TV series.
There are 2 words that describe what SyFy/Heroes of Cosplay are doing; Copyright Infringement.
I have a very close friend and business partner who was likely affected the most in this matter – with a good number of images on the SyFy website, on the show and banners/posters. His name (which he has allowed me to use) is Bryan Humphrey.
Q: But wait, what does Bryan have anything to do with YOU, BGZ Studios?
Great Question – Bryan and I are forming an LLC – As I have with numerous other photographers and small businesses – You could say he is my subsidiary, but the best word for it is, “BGZ Studios is his Business Advocate”
Now begins the story – which starts with capturing all the violations in which Bryan’s images were used, and adding them to a pretty little invoice..
Attached to this invoice, is a letter of demand. This letter explains the images in use, the links to them, the links to the violations and the links to the full image and its information to show authorship.
These forms were all compiled up into an email sent over to many producers and directors of the show. Of course, they don’t have their legal team publicly accessible, so I sent it to quite a number of people associated with the series.
So, lets do a small hard stop real quick..
No, I have not hired a lawyer yet. Three lawyers are currently giving advice and are knocking on my door to pick up this case. And no, these lawyers do not suck.
Let’s also do a quick knock-back on copyright and imagery in this community. If you have read everything in these forms, you should understand that a photographer owns every image that results from pressing the shutter button, regardless of the subject in question. Whether it be a picture of Paris Hilton getting naked at the beach, or a nip slip on a stage; The law is on the side of the photographer the second the image hits the memory card. The ONLY option that would make this invalid, is if the photographer is hired as a “work for hire” – as an example, as an employee working for a company. No, this does NOT include weddings or other “I pay you to shoot pictures of me”.
Still with me guys?
Q: Whoa, wait a second – I am a cosplayer..are you saying I have no copyrights to the photographs?
This is a VERY HOT and touchy topic so I will not go into much detail. But I will say this: Short answer? No, you have no copyrights.
But this does NOT mean that you can’t have rights. You know how a photographer can whip out a model release form? Guess what? You can whip out your photographer release form too.
That being said, if papers are not signed, a cosplayer/costumer has no copyrights to the image – and no, just because you set up poses does not make you a co-author to the image. If money is involved in creating the picture (whether it be the cosplayer or the photographer ex: permit to shoot on grounds), co-authorship comes into effect.. more of that very soon.
Remember guys – I am in no way trying to upset anyone here – I am trying to keep this very factually based, so hang in there.
Back to the story!
The next day I got a phone call from a Robyn Aronson from NBC Universal. She was not very happy on the phone and in fact, stuttered so much I was almost unable to understand what she was saying… with good reason too – because water has begun to boil at the studios for them.
The phone call consisted of them claiming they had full rights to the images because of an agreement with the cosplayer(s) whom are also claiming they are co-author and also copyright owners to the images.
What a mess.
More facts: Co-authorship can only be claimed in a written and signed form from the photographer in question.
Here is the email that was sent to me shortly after:
Good thing she said that “this is not intended to be a statement of facts relevant to this matter” – because everything said above that line is a load of bullsh**.
And my response came soon after, which explains the law from that “USC-201″ which she tried so hard to impress me with.
Very soon after my response, SyFy did the unthinkable. They turned it around and started attacking the cosplayers in question – which was completely not my intention. SyFy threatened to compromise the careers of the cosplayers featured in the show. Reality TV production at its best.
Everyone needs to know this – the VAST MAJORITY of the cosplayers on the show have forwarded all photographer information over to the studio along with the photographs since BEFORE the show aired. Yes, I do have proof of that too. These people are not stupid – I respect them very much and most of them did 100% the right thing.
The people at fault are those who made the decision to not contact the photographers and still proceed with the show – NOT THE COSPLAYERS.
After the heat-up, NBC/SyFy have not responded to emails. I then sent an email stating that this will be going public within the community and that they can enjoy the PR nightmare because of their very obvious wrong-doing.
As of 8/25/2013 – that is where it has ended.
This blog will be updated if any updates come up to keep everyone informed – They have until the “PAST DUE” date of 9/24/2013. After that, it is very likely this may go to litigation.
Update space reserved
Update space reserved
As a disclaimer, I want people to know that I have no intentions of harming any persons part of this show in any way. This is me, as a business owner, expressing rights to a photographer’s work. Names have been marked off/excluded to protect the anonymity of those involved. Obviously, I did not exclude the names and contact information for NBC… and that is intentional.
Q: Wow, Darrell.. this is really messed up. how can we, as a community help you?
Photographer rights are gashed, stabbed and stomped on all the time. In this case, it obvious they are at fault and are failing to admit it.
You can help by grabbing the emails below, and send an email questioning why they have not responded to their wrong-doing.
If enough people do it, it will grab a lot of attention.
Here they are:
If you have any questions, we can talk in the comments below.