July 23rd, 2010

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.