Marketing its new show, Heroes of Cosplay, SyFy and NBC used photographs of cosplayers without the permission of the photographers. It claims, in its defense, that the subjects of photographs "enjoy rights of joint authorship." Here's Darrell Ardita of BGZ Photography, describing what happened after they sent in an invoice:
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.
NBC would know the photographers own their shots outright, but also that photographic subjects often believe that they have rights, too. Cosplayers, like brides and varsity students, are often shocked to discover that they don't own squat. On the other hand, photographers don't like alienating customers, and may issue vaguely-worded permission slips allowing uncertain uses. Ignorant subjects, and legally untested licenses, can be exploited--and then there are the terms that events may claim to impose, liability waivers, and goodness knows what else. It all adds up to a reminder, for photographers, that they could spend a lot of money to assert their rights, only to receive trivial damages from the courts.
Backed into a corner by the fuss, though, SyFy/NBC is apparently now threatening the cosplayers for representing that they owned the images in question.
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.
It just isn't monday at Boing Boing without reality TV, copyright law and corporate bullying.