Snowboarding Photographer Labeled “Unstable” By CEO For Trying To Protect Copyright

A snowboarding photographer battled a company for months trying to get them to acknowledge that they had used his photo without permission or payment. The photographer, Chris Messervey, has now published his months of correspondence with the company on his blog in hopes of getting satisfaction.

Standard practice for snowboarding photographers is to accompany riders on their trips into the mountains, make images documenting the action, and then license those photographs to magazines and companies who sponsor the riders and whose gear appears in the photos.

Messervey did just that when he traveled this past February to Revelstoke, British Columbia with some snowboarders who were working on a film for the 2010–2011 winter season.

One of the riders mentioned to Messervey that one of his sponsors, the snowboarding apparel company Grenade, were looking for photographs of the rider in the next season’s gear. “It’s pretty standard practice that after shooting riders, you preview shots with them, they show their sponsors, if their sponsors are feeling the shots, they buy them for a price based on how they intend to use them,” Messervey wrote in a blog post recounting his experiences with Grenade.

The rider showed one of Messervey’s images to Grenade, who published it on their blog. Messervey didn’t receive a request for permission to publish the image, nor was he credited.

When he approached Grenade about payment for use of the image, a representative of the company was initially cordial, Meservey says, but put him off. Months later, he had still not received payment. The correspondence between Messervey and the company, which Messervey published on his blog, escalated into acrimony on both sides and threats of legal action, and ended with the company’s CEO accusing Messervey of being unstable simply because he was trying to protect his work.

Grenade has since taken Messervey’s photograph down off its site. He has still not been paid for the usage.

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17 Responses to “Snowboarding Photographer Labeled “Unstable” By CEO For Trying To Protect Copyright”

  1. Chris M Says:

    link to blog post is f-ed. please fix?

  2. sara montour Says:

    Working link to the blog:

  3. Conor Risch Says:

    Apologies for the broken link. It works now.

  4. John R. Otten Says:

    When you use words like “stoked” and “totally” in your business correspondence, you’re not exactly dealing with clients on a professional level. Is this guy Messervey still in high school, or is he a grown up? I can’t tell.
    The problem here is that he should have never released the images to his snowboarding buddies without making it VERY clear that they were NOT to be published in any way shape or form unless the sponsor was willing to compensate him for usage. It’s not like they ripped the images from his site.
    Sounds to me like his friends thought he was “sharing” the pictures with them. After all, that’s what friends are for, right? Peer-to-peer “sharing” is so deeply embedded in our culture, especially among the young, that I can’t imagine his friends actually thought he was expecting to be paid for his photography.
    The kid is definitely not unstable. Immature and unprofessional, yes.

  5. Jon Says:

    The snowboard industry isn’t very professional or business etiquette conscious. It’s over a billion dollar industry and the heads of many of the leading companies use stoked, totally, reference to dope, etc. Burton made a 420 kit and 420 pockets on jackets.
    It’s very common to release photos under these circumstances. There’s a general understanding between professional photographers and athletes in this sport that any photo is up for sale and that most companies know anything shot professionally is for sale and not free.
    Photographers share many photos with riders and the understanding is very mutual. Riders won’t dare post photos on blogs, facebook, etc that has a chance of being sold or printed in a magazine as they are paid on an incentive basis and any photo released before it is printed or used for an online article as it generally eliminates any chance of it being picked up.

  6. Mike Says:

    Regardless of who/where/when/how these images were received, this is a “common sense” situation that should have never happened. The fact that the C.E.O of a recognized company would openly antagonize a photographer (regardless of his age/professionalism) is not only bad for his reputation but for business as well…

  7. Tim Peare Says:

    Being someone who works within the industry of snowboarding I can comment on a couple things. First, this happens all the time to every single photographer that attempts to make it in this field. It’s not right, but it happens all the time. Secondly, the terms “stoked” and “totally” are an integrated part of the snowboard vernacular and it would be strange without them. The culture is very anti-establishment, so judging this guy by his way of speak is out of context. Thirdly, I’m stoked…I mean, very excited that Chris Messervey is taking this as far as he is. I know I’ve been ripped off by Grenade in terms of unpaid photo usage and licensing. Good job Chris.

  8. Jon ney rotten Says:

    Sounds to me like John R otten might just be one of the people in this story….

  9. chap Says:

    yeah john r… sorry bud, but you’re way off. chris is a personal friend and is very proffesional. immature? well if you call him that we can just call you stupid. as far as the terminology goes (coming from the industry for over a decade and being a business owner in this industry) he is right on par with our language. so without rambling on, chris is in the right. that’s it that’s all. grenade should have paid up. this ceo is not a snowboarder. he is trying to make cash in the snowboard industry regardless, hence money grubbing douche with no passion or love for the sport/lifestyle we hold dear. anyway just wanted to point out your comments are as important as a brain dead monkey trying to open a coconut by bashing his head against it.

  10. patrick Says:

    I can totally agree with Chris, and I think it is fantastic that he is so adamant about the issue. We all need to be. Still, I do think he might have burned a few bridges that were not worth burning. Just a thought. I have had to “suck it up” a few times because I did not want to lose the client, foot in the door, etc.

  11. Jon Says:

    it’s not a bad idea to burn bridges that lead to nowhere. It’s been talked about lately how bad grenade is to work for in regards to photographers, graphic designers etc.
    A foot in the door is useless unless it puts food on the table

  12. Flem Says:

    Grenade is the Ben Hinkley of snowboard companies.

  13. Scott Says:

    A photo on a blog! How much is that really worth? Was it worth the photographer getting a bad name in the industry as a whole. The Photographers at the top have had to give a little to be successful. It’s funny how the guys at the bottom of the industry always have the most attitude and don’t understand how the things work.

  14. jon Says:

    None of the photographers at the top are proud of their decisions to take it in bum to advance any of their careers. Ask any of them today and the one piece of advice they will all give is to value your work. Any usage used to promote a company in any way has value.
    Tim Peare, who is at the top, agrees….

  15. JeffGreenberg Says:

    “… the company’s CEO accusing Messervey of being unstable”
    In public arena? Constitutes libel-slander AFAIK.

  16. Mark Zarro Says:

    I don’t know, but this seems like a lot of crap for something that really isn’t all that important. besides the principals, does anyone else really care all that much?

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