Here at Metal Insider, we try to keep our focus on all things metal, however, every once in a while, there is a story so ridiculous that it just needs to be shared. Such is the case with the recent debacle involving alternative/”post-hardcore” band, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and their blatant copyright infringement of an Australian photographer, Rohan Anderson.
It all began with the band editing out the photographer’s watermark and adding further edits to a photo before sharing it via Instagram and simultaneously posting it Twitter and Facebook.
Upon finding his photo cropped and edited on the band’s social media accounts, Rohan sent a polite message to the band, asking them to please remove the photo. It is the band’s subsequent childish responses that make this newsworthy. At first, all RJA did was modify the caption to include the photographer’s name. However, that’s not what Anderson had asked in his emails and comments to the band, so he tried contacting them again–this time via Facebook. Their exchange is shown below:
The band then sent him an email saying:
You have no legal claim as the photo is credited and is not posted for a monetary gain and features our likeness and image not yours.
Also you have just got your self banned from any festival or show we ever play again in that region for life! Congrats!
There were further exchanges between Rohan and the band, in which he tried to explain to them that this isn’t how copyright works (because it isn’t!), but the band still didn’t seem to get it. He asked again for the band to remove the photo and for an apology for their unprofessional conduct, explaining that he would pursue legal action if they did not do so. Again this was met with a naive reply from RJA:
We welcome the “lawyer” and his response. As for the lol it was funny, life is funny. If you want to take it any other way that’s fine with us. As for the “tables turning” remark our music is everywhere illegally and we let it go like all other “professionals” try it out sometime. Most unknown photographers are happy to have world wide known bands use their photos and consider it an honor, you are clearly an example of the opposite.
Don’t send anymore threats or you’ll be hearing from our Lawyer!
Have a nice day 😉
There was more back and forth, which I won’t bother covering in detail since Rohan and Petapixel have both done a good job of it, but after taking to his blog to post about the situation, his story went viral on the photography subreddit. This apparently prompted the band to respond–again in an immature and stupid manner, taking to Twitter to mock Rohan in a post that has since been deleted:
A short time later the band apologized via Twitter and claimed to have come to an agreement with Anderson, and paid him for the photo:
These claims that have been confirmed via Rohan’s subsequent blog posts, which you can find on his site linked above. However, the story doesn’t quite end there, in a somewhat confusing post, the band posted (and edited) a status affirming the band’s belief that “all forms of art should be free” (subsequently edited to say “most” forms of art) seen below:
The status strikes me as the band doubling-down on its stance in their dispute with Anderson and seems to be a lame attempt to justify its actions. Perhaps they are trying to turn this bad publicity into something more positive to promote their new record, which along with their existing releases will allegedly be posted for free download in July? I certainly hope RJA kept its former labels in the loop as much of their discography doesn’t seem to be owned by the band. In any case, the initial status post definitely pissed off a lot of people who were following this entire mess and led to a lot of negative comments from fans and photographers alike. Rather than simply ignore the comments, RJA has been taking the time to delete anything negative and ban the users responsible for the comments (including yours truly).
To an outsider this entire story may sound like a petty dispute–that’s certainly how the band seems to have seen it. But, it’s important to realize how much freelance photographers like myself and Rohan Anderson have invested into our gear–typically a few to several thousands of dollars–to be able to capture amazing live shots of bands. One would think, of all industries to understand the effects of infringement on bottom line, that a relatively has-been band would get it, but instead it seems like the band continues to be blind to the seriousness of the copyright infringement. Yes they’ve now paid the photographer, but their overall attitude seems to remain unchanged, which is really rather sad, since RJA could have avoided the fees and bad publicity if they had just pulled down the image when asked by Anderson, or asked ahead of time for the permission to post it!
As a freelance music photographer, I can assure you that this type of thing isn’t confined to the more radio-friendly rock genre. I’ve had to deal with infringement and battles with metal bands in the past too. It’s not fun–often it’s a difficult choice between just letting it go, or standing up for your rights as photographer and owner of the image, and facing down a recording artist that sometimes has major label backing and the power to damage your relationship with said label. Hopefully this story, since it has gotten so much attention, will serve as a learning experience for other bands, so that this type of thing doesn’t keep happening to those of us in the photographer community. Because when you get right down to it, copyright infringement is bad for bands and bad for photographers!
Nathan Katsiaficas is a contributing photographer to Metal Insider, New Noise Magazine, and other publications. You can follow his work on his Facebook.