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Stock photography gone awry -OR- Can I make your head hurt?
Thomas E. Witte, Photographer, Photo Editor
Cincinnati | OH | USA | Posted: 4:09 PM on 03.29.11
->> It's been a fairly comical year for stock photography gaffes. I think it was last May that a model tried to sue a photographer and stock agency for allowing his photo to be used in an ad for generic erectile dysfunction pills. I've searched high and low for the article and can't find it, but to paint a picture for you, he was in his late 20's with an ear to ear grin and giving a double thumbs up while surrounded by 6-7 different pills. He alleged he was being tormented by friends... Well, that's what friends do, so I have no sympathy for him.

Then there was this:

CliffsNotes: One political party used a stock photo for an ad promoting their party, then the opponent went to the same agency, found another photo of the model and ran a competing ad saying she changed her mind. (It was a brilliant tactical move but technically both parties were guilty of violating the terms of service for the agency, but that's a side point.)

The lesson there (which practically nobody will learn) is that it's better to either pay for exclusivity or hire someone to shoot your own art.

Then yesterday we have this:

CliffsNotes: A law firm who is handling health claims for 9/11 responders hired an ad agency to paint them in a good light. Ad agency gets a stock photo of a fireman and photoshops out the helmet in the model's hands and paints in a framed photo of the smoldering towers then places text saying "I was there, now so-and-so is there for me."... Well, it turns out the model is an actual NYC fireman and he didn't join the department until 2004.

The law firm (who had a hand in selecting the photo) freaked out, the ad agency voluntarily withdrew from the assignment and the model lawyered up because:

Keiley's attorney, Keith Sullivan, said, "My client is opposed to the commercialization of 9/11 and is extremely upset that his image is being used for commercial gains by others."

Okay, MANY things going on here. You have a "model" being upset with a photo of them being used for commercial gains without signing anything ruling out commercial usage. You have a stock agency that photographed someone decked out in fireman's gear who (from the context of the story) never let on that he was in fact a fireman. Lastly, you have an extremely large law firm inadvertently thrust in the spotlight for false advertising concerning an emotionally charged episode in American history. You couldn't f*** this up worse if you tried.

Now here's the fun twist. The law firm of Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern (WGENB) has actually been lambasted for a variety of reasons concerning their handling of the claims, from the victims, the public, pundits, etc., - hence the campaign.

So we've got lawyers, a major tragedy in U.S. History, models disagreeing with how their photo is used and stock photography - an up-to-this-point unregulated industry. Who else thinks that sweeping changes are on the horizon for stock agencies? WGENB and Barker DZP (maybe even Robert Keiley) could conceivably team up and sue the stock agency for not keeping detailed records about the model/photos citing they wouldn't have used the photo had they known and thus not wasted $xxx,xxx on the failed ad. If they did, and succeeded, then that sets precedent making the agency liable. Agencies (typically) already indemnify the photographer but it can easily be argued that the agency is at fault for not requiring the photographer to provide an obscene amount of information about the photo(s) they submit. Either way you slice it, responsibility and the increase in work load is only going to trickle down to the photography if anything comes of this.

I'm not a mind reader and I can't predict the future, but I think the perfect storm is brewing up this time.
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Thomas E. Witte, Photographer, Photo Editor
Cincinnati | OH | USA | Posted: 4:25 PM on 03.29.11
->> That should have read:

"trickle down to the _photographer_ if anything comes of this"
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Chris Pietsch, Photographer
Eugene | OR | USA | Posted: 12:49 PM on 03.30.11
->> Assuming you are not party to a lawsuit, stock photography can be amusing on SO MANY levels:
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 2:28 PM on 03.30.11
->> While the story I'm about to convey has nothing to do with stock, it is very pertinent to the lack of thinking by even good intentioned PR people.

Some 20+ years ago there was a tragic incident in Southern California where a dad doused his pre-teen son with kerosene and lit him afire. It was a national story back then. The child lived and went through long, painful multiple skin grafts in the hospital over many, many months. After recovery, the boy asked for a wish -- to visit Disneyland. Naturally, the theme park not only obliged but made it into a huge press event and I was one of the photographers there covering it.

Always wanting to know what would be happening ahead of time so I can be in the right place at the right time, I asked the Disney PR person what the agenda was. He said the child would ride down Main Street in a vehicle and be greeted by characters outside the castle. Simple enough.

I then asked what type vehicle the boy would be riding in and where he was going to sit so I could position myself. The flak said a fire engine as it was the only open/topless vehicle they had. I looked at him and asked if he was serious. Was Disney going to have a boy who was severely burned over the majority of his body be the center of attention in a FIRE truck? Within a few seconds I watched as every drop of blood drain from his face over the possible implications. Disney got an antique car for him.

Seeing that this wasn't going to work picture-wise especially with all the TV crews walking alongside, I strolled down to the castle to get the kid stepping out. The same PR person was there. I asked him which characters were going to greet the boy. He said Captain Hook. My jaw hit the ground and I just looked at him. He asked why I appeared surprised. I told him I found it rather disturbing on what the reaction would be from the boy who lost nearly all his fingers and might be using a hook-like device to feed and dress himself to be greeted by Captain HOOK.

The man nearly defecated in his pants with the reality check. He got on his radio and within a minute two plain clothes security men came up behind Captain Hook, grabbed him underneath his armpits and literally lifted him off the ground as they carried him away with his feet barely touching the ground. He was replaced with Chip and Dale.
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Jeff Brehm, Photographer, Photo Editor
Salisbury | NC | USA | Posted: 2:40 PM on 03.30.11
->> Doug, they owe you a consulting fee.
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Thread Title: Stock photography gone awry -OR- Can I make your head hurt?
Thread Started By: Thomas E. Witte
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