St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports photographer Chris Lee was surprised to learn from a colleague that one of his photos was on Twitter with a @stlramsphotos watermark on it.
“Not sure why someone thinks it’s okay to steal my photo then put their own name on it,” Lee tweeted to the image thief.
The P-D shooter tells me that “clearly, the person was aware of the value of claiming credit, but there was no mention or credit given to who actually took the picture. For all intents and purposes, the photo was by @stlramsphotos and posts by this individual seemed to imply this as well.”
Lee eventually discovered that it was a Rams fan named Alvin Lawrence who was behind the @stlramsphotos Instagram and Twitter accounts. Lee sent him an email.
He tells Romenesko readers:
I explained [to Lawrence] that he was taking credit for my pictures. His argument was that he owns the “edits” but not the photo. By “edits” I assume he means a few simple Photoshop filters or cutting out the subject from the background.
I tried to explain that if he separated his “edit” from my photo, he would have a vignetted background and a piece of text that said “@stlramsphotos.” The point of the picture, the reason why he has fans and players coming to check out his site, is because of the content of my pictures that he is taking off the Internet, not because of the “edits.”
Lee asked Lawrence that he simply give credit for each photo that he uses.
“He started adding a credit line in the message body of each picture he posted (while still imprinting @stlramsphotos directly on the picture) and I left it at that.”/CONTINUES
A few days after Christmas, Lee saw an Instagram photo of Rams star Robert Quinn holding one of his photos that had been enlarged and framed (below). In the comments next to the photo, the Rams player wrote that “a guy specially made it for me but idk [I don't know] maybe he will do one for you.” Fans asked Quinn who they should contact to get their own framed prints.
A short time later, Lawrence – Mr. @stlramsphotos – tweeted: “I’ve gotten over 20+ offers from people to buy that Quinn photo off of me… Biggest offer being, $350. Wow. I’m just doing this for fun lol.”
Lee decided to send Lawrence an anonymous email asking how he could get a print just like the one that Quinn was showing off.
With the Quinn poster, his wife and I worked together to put that photo together. I have the HD file on my computer. Quinn’s wife was the one that went to Walgreens to get it blown up, and framed. I only designed.
As far as rights and pricing, the rights of this photo is owned by, Chris Lee/stl post dispatch. So I do not own the rights to it. I only own the rights to the actual put together and the overall edit. As far as pricing? That’ll be up to you. What were you thinking?
How it works, is I email you the file, You go to your local photo place and get it printed and framed!
“I did send a long email to Mr. Lawrence explaining how he doesn’t own the rights to the pictures, which means he doesn’t have the right to sell them. I never heard back but he did continue to post on his Instagram account.” (I’m also waiting for Lawrence to respond to my tweet.)
Lee hopes to stop Lawrence by filing copyright infringement complaints with Instagram and Twitter.
“I’m sure lots of editorial photos are posted and reposted from news websites on social media,” Lee writes in an email. “But this individual appears to have gone well beyond by building relationships with pro athletes/teams using other people’s work and selling other people’s work.”