Photogs Offer Infringers a Charitable Way Out, Save on Court Costs in the Process


In a copyright dispute with So Delicious this past week, photographer Theron Humphrey chose to follow in Brandon Stanton’s footsteps and give the infringers a positive way out of the situation. Instead of getting the long arm of the law involved, Humphrey suggested that the offending company instead donate the money he was owed to charity.

Humphrey found his photo (top) used in a So Delicious ad on Facebook. But rather than send out a DMCA notice and get caught up in a legal battle, his solution was to have the company donate $10,000 to the animal shelter of his choice.

Both Stanton and Humphrey have said that their reasoning had to do with avoiding the court and time costs involved in pursing a copyright suit to its conclusion. For Humphrey, copying Stanton’s solution seemed like a win-win. In an e-mail conversation with PDN Pulse, he explains:

Brandon Stanton had a solid approach that helped a ton of kids. It felt right. It felt connected. And a lot of good came from it. I’m not sure if So Delicious feels the same way, but I think they got an amazing deal! They got a ton of love. And maybe when I’m out in Oregon we can collaborate.

But not everybody who has heard the stories sees the tactic in a positive light. Giving the infringing party solid PR, some argue, only encourages more of the same. It also doesn’t seem to drive the point home that stealing photos is, in fact, a negative thing.

So Delicious is a brand of Eugene, Oregon-based natural foods company Turtle Mountain

So Delicious is a brand of Eugene, Oregon-based natural foods company Turtle Mountain

As Humphrey soon learned, however, even his asking So Delicious to donate the money to charity wasn’t well-received by some Facebookers:

There are dozens of people commenting that I’m being a jerk and it’s not a big deal. Those same comments often have 30-plus likes. That in itself is an interesting glimpse into the minds of a lot of folks.

Whether or not the “charity option” is having a positive effect on people’s understanding of copyright infringement is up for debate. But it’s certainly a friendlier way to, in Humphrey’s words, “educat[e] folks to respect images and give them proper credit or ask for permission.”

(via PDN Pulse)

  • UK photographer

    If the photographer can afford to donate a $10K fee to charity then good for him. I think most would rather put that fee towards groceries/school fees/rent.

  • Antonio Carrasco

    I don’t agree with the charity option. A photographer should get paid for his/her work without having to resort to some touchy-feely resolution, in which he still doesn’t get paid.

    It’s ridiculously hard to earn a living as a photographer and what this company did was stealing. I don’t understand the concept of playing nice with people who are robbing you. If you were to take the So Delicious logo and use it on other things, i.e. porn or something, you better believe their lawyers would come quick. So why is it cool when the company does it to an individual?

    The So Delicious Company could easily license a similar image from a microstock site for like $10, but instead they just steal. If you don’t put up a fight then this will become more and more accepted.

  • junyo

    The problem is, it still actively encourages corporate stealing.

    Regardless of what you think of companies, it’s a demonstrable fact that they give money to charity; because they genuinely care, because of the tax write-off, because of the goodwill/PR factor. So realistically, if I’m The Global Mega Amalgamated Widget Group, Inc., I’ve got a decent slush fund to throw at charities when I do something bad; it’s just a business cost. By letting me donate money to a charity rather than pay you, I get a twofer. That money would have just come out of the slush fund, before; now if I hold it back, rob you, and you ‘let me’ donate that same money to a charity, I get a twofer, for the small price of a press release stating how it was all just a terrible mixup. And a week later a press release announcing my donation, sans any mention of the dude I ripped off.

    I think artists sometimes go overboard trying to monetize every single bit of IP, but I think stuff like this just tells people to rob you.

  • undecided

    I don’t know, it seems like this is starting to spread. I really don’t think this will be a win-win solution anymore in the future.

  • tyrohne

    Well said.

  • derekdj

    This sets a very bad precedence because it devalues not only the work but the entire “professional” process of obtaining permission and then compensating the artist properly. I work with several “young” agencies who operate under the “roll the dice” mentality, in other words use the art until you get caught, and then use the “social network” defense. Now by giving the offending party an easy out only with the added benefit of receiving a tax deduction only encourages further infringements.

    Ultimately, it’s to the artist’s discretion, if they can live without compensation, great, but it should also be accompanied by a DMCA warning.

  • Samuel

    Its not like the company forced him to donate it, he, through choice decided that it would be better for it to go to charity.

    Its so depressing “you dont believe in the charity option” but i guess you can find people to get angry about anything on the internet even a selfless donation to a much needed cause

  • G

    I think the point is he choose this route because he considered it easier to get them to pay for their wrong-doing this way than to get into a legal mess..

    A selfless donation would be: you work, you get money for your work and then (with money in hand) you choose to donate to what you consider a worthy cause.

  • Samuel

    well…. so what ?

    I dont know much of the photog in question but maybe he is already comfortably wealthy and busy (cash heavy – time poor) and couldn’t be bothered with a legal battle that probably wouldn’t have benefitted any of the three parties

  • Antonio Carrasco

    It’s the “death of a thousand cuts” for photographers.

    This gig I did for charity.
    This gig I did for exposure.
    This gig I did for a friend.

    This gig I did for my portfolio.

    At the end of the month, you have no money for food or rent. So maybe some of the charity will come back to you. But it never works out that way. It never does.

    I don’t know why getting paid for your work is such a crazy concept.

  • Samuel

    Don’t get me wrong I’m no testino earning $30k a shoot, my food budget for this week was 3 cup ‘o’ noodles and a microwaveable burger.

    Your argument is fair that photography is a business but money isn’t everything, this shot wasn’t set up for the brand and he didn’t have to fly over the country with gear and set up and shoot specifically for the brand and they refused to pay him, its a coincidental photo.

    Say if someone took a photo from my flickr i had taken for no reason other than i wanted to and someone used it as a promo for a brand and my options were then

    -Fight a ridiculously long and costly DMCA legal battle for $10,000 (bearing in mind after costs i’d probably get very little)


    -$10,000 to an animal shelter i know which one i’d choose and it wouldn’t be the one that required hiring a lawyer.

  • kaitb1103

    It might be a good idea to post an update on this as So Delicious Dairy Free has agreed to donate 10k to Mr. Humphrey’s choice of charity

  • Eziz

    I like how people judge and criticize the decisions of others. If your pictures are stolen go ahead and sue. This guy chose something else.

  • Ralph Hightower

    And the company probably got a tax deduction for their contribution.

  • Ralph Mennemeyer

    EXACTLY. Yet another “reward” for ripping off a photographer. What are people thinking?

  • Portraits Rhonda

    Well Done Theron Humphrey and Brandon Stanton.
    While I agree you should get paid for your work and hope they will remember that in the future, I like your solution for this particular infringement. I hope the publicity helps to educate people about copyrights for photography.

  • a73

    So, if you were caught leaving a DKNY store with a designer dress worth $1,000 hidden in your bag, do you think everything would be cool if you offered to make a $250 donation to a cat and dog shelter?
    Of course not!
    Why is the same scenario acceptable in the photography business?
    Because photography is just a hobby?
    Because photographs aren’t worth anything anyway? Because all photographs are basically the same?
    Well, Old Navy sells dresses similar to places like DKNY for $89…?
    People make their living as photographers, and they should value their work the same as any other industry values their products. It’s maddening to me that Stanton accepted a quarter of what he initially asked DKNY for as compensation, for the illegal use of his photographs (not to mention how strange it is that photographers don’t seem to want to be paid for images preferring to have their compensation paid directly to charities, as if for some reason they don’t “deserve” to be paid for their images!).

  • Matthias

    I’d argue that you are all thinking way too narrowly by arguing that they are “getting away for nothing.” DKNY got a huge black eye this week from the HONY fiasco. I honestly think they’d rather have quietly threw $100,000 at the situation and swept it under the carpet than being publicly portrayed as thieves, and now cheapskates. They got hammered, hammered by the internet this week. And some people are arguing that a quiet settlement would somehow have done more damage to them.

  • Hls

    Must be great to have such a silver spoon upbringing that one could take part in wrecking a market for real working photographers. MFA- That says it ALL!

  • Sébastian Dahl

    really? that would be good news

  • Michael Andrew Broughton

    he should have asked them to give him the money so he could donate it to charity. that way he gets the tax write-off for the donation and they get the bad pr for not wanting to give to charity if they refuse his offer.