J Salmerón, a Netherlands-based concert photographer, took a fantastic shot of Arch Enemy singer Alissa White-Gluz at a festival gig in Nijmegen. He posted it to his Instagram, to White-Gluz and fans' general delight.
A company named Thunderball Clothing, operated by Marta Gabriel, reposted Salmerón's photo to their own Instagram account. Thunderball created the leather vest White-Gluz wore in the post, and used the photo, without the photographer's permission, to market its services.
Salmerón sent a request: give €100 euros to a charity, the normal licensing fee, and he wouldn't ding Thunderball with a €500 unauthorized use invoice.
So Gabriel told the band that Salmerón threatened her. And the band itself told him that, as far as they were concorned, they could also use his photos however they please.
Salmerón, who as luck would have it is also a lawyer, explains that this is a dangerous misunderstanding of copyright law:
This made no sense since, although there are some restrictions (for example, I can't use a photo of Alissa to promote a product, unless she expressly authorizes me to do so) I am the only one who gets to decide how and where my work is used. To put it in legal terms: I own the copyright over my photos.
The message also sought to perpetuate the ridiculous system that some bands expect to have with photographers: They let them come into the pit, expect to have the absolute and perpetual right to use the photos in whatever way they want, and pay photographers in "exposure," by using their work before a massive audience.
Worse, the band told him they were going to try and get him blacklisted from the business:
By the way, we are sure you don't mind that you are not welcome anymore to take pictures of Arch Enemy performances in the future, at festivals or solo performances. I have copied in the label reps and booking agent who will inform promoters – no band wants to have photographers on site who later send such threatening correspondence to monetise on their images.
The band, of course, rigorously enforces their own rights against bootleggers and youtubers — a fact White-Gluz boasted of when Salmerón tried to smooth things out personally.
This is an interesting situation in that the scofflaws obviously can't be reasoned with, but suing the fashion designer over €500 in damages (or the band over its childish blacklisting threat) seems a pointless waste of time and energy. Sometimes the best remedy is the burning eye of Streisand.