Magazine Calls Photographer ‘A**hole’ and Threatens Lawsuit After Using Her Photo Without Permission


Buckle up, because this is a copyright battle that has hit rock bottom and started digging with gusto. How much gusto? Lets just say that the he-said-she-said nature of this ferocious back-and-forth between a photographer and a magazine that used her photo without permission makes the whole Color Run debacle look tame.

The story begins with unauthorized use of a photo, a polite (but ignored) copyright complaint, a takedown notice, and a reply email in which the offender called the photographer an a**hole and said they would be suing.

Kathy Shea Mormino is the owner of the popular backyard chicken site The Chicken Chick and the photographer behind a photo that she recently found on Survival Magazine’s Facebook page and blog. Oh, and she’s also an attorney.

The photo had been used without permission and had, according to Mormino, even had her watermark removed. All of this smells of willful copyright infringement but Mormino decided to give the magazine the benefit of the doubt and, instead of filing a takedown notice immediately, politely asked that the magazine take the photo down.


As you might imagine, her comment was deleted and ignored, and so she took it to the next level. This is where the stories diverge:

According to Mormino, who spoke directly to Adweek about the incident, she filed exactly one copyright infringement complaint with Facebook, which was carried out a few hours later.

According to the magazine, which also got in touch with Adweek, she filed ‘about 10′ takedown notices for posts that had nothing to do with her, her watermark wasn’t removed, her photo was removed immediately after they found out about the infringement (not from her, but from Facebook, they claim she never got in touch), and her reaction was all around ‘malicious.’

It’s anybody’s guess as to who is telling the truth here — although evidence (i.e. Mormino’s Facebook comment above) seems to indicate the magazine is in the wrong — but we do know one thing for sure: this is the email she received in response to the photo being forcefully taken down by Facebook:


An unidentified contributor for the magazine calls Mormino an a**hole several times, accuses her of filing several fake takedown notices and says that they will be suing her and contacting all of her sponsors.

A shocked Mormino posted a screenshot of the email to her Facebook page, where fans and photographers the world over, none of which could believe their eyes, took to Survival Magazine’s FB to voice their outrage, eventually forcing the magazine to take down the page entirely (at least for a time, it seems to be back up now).

Since then the back and forth has taken place largely though the original Adweek article, in which Survival Magazine and Mormino alternate telling very different stories that couldn’t possibly both be true.

In our opinion, the story makes much more sense told from the photographer’s perspective. You have to prove ownership of a photo before Facebook will take it down, which makes it unlikely Mormino would go on a Facebook takedown spree for the heck of it. Plus, the magazine is denying she ever got in touch, but she has the screenshot to prove it.

Whatever the case, Survival Magazine has now gotten itself mixed up in a very public, very humiliating copyright battle that could have been avoided entirely if that very strong-worded email was never sent. “I would have excused the unauthorized use of my photo,” Mormino tells Adweek. “Their bad behavior ex post facto, however, is completely inexcusable.”

To read the magazine and Mormino’s full statements, be sure to check out Adweek‘s coverage by clicking here. And don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments down below.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Doug!

  • MMielech

    Plucked from cyberspace.

  • SargentRock

    Guess they got the flock out of there…

  • Ian_Llanganagain

    Really? What’s with all the cheap yolks? ;-)

  • Banxy

    These are survivalists. Not the sharpest knives in the drawer (though they probably own plenty of sharp implements). Can’t say I’m surprised by their response. Go get ‘em, ChickenChick!

  • ShootnHooton

    As with many things, only in America.

  • kandy830

    my Aunty Grace got a nearly new blue Kia by working part
    time from the internet. look at this now F­i­s­c­a­l­M­a­z­e­.­ℂ­o­m

  • T Reed

    you can also get legal fees if its registered…

  • JoanieGranola

    Yeah, our copyright laws is a bastardized version of what the rest of the world uses. It would be much simpler if we were all on the same page.

  • qtluong

    Far from being an a******, the photographer was actually pretty nice to be willing to let them go with removal of infringing image, not even sending an invoice. As others have pointed out, copyright infringement is an offense taken seriously by US courts and punished with heavy penalties.

  • Joe Pepersack

    Read the FAQ I linked. You can get attorneys fees only if it is registered prior to the infringing act.

  • peterblaise

    JoanieGranola wrote”… if you want to get damages, your image has to be registered. Just because you own the copyright, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get money when someone violates your copyright. …”

    With registration, you’re entitled to default STATUARY damages, and the Federal Government as a in your corner in court.

    If you do not register, you can still sue and win, you just don’t get the above statutory defaults, but you can get equal or more than $150,000 depending.

    Lots to read if we web search for:

    [ statutory damages registration copyright loc ]

    (loc = Library of Congress).

  • peterblaise

    Copyrights are part of international treaty, so rights are same-same for many elements of intellectual property works wide, a byproduct of the publishing industry’s desire to monopolize free speech and control copying.

    The benefit is that we get immediate copyright over our own photograph immediately when we make it even in the latent image before it leaves our camera, before we prepare it for presentation in any form.

    And, therefore, destroying someone’s else’s original property that includes an original copyright image is universally a crime with elevates statutory penalties ($250,000?) …

    … so, no security guard can demand to see or delete an image from our camera, even if we take / make / capture /create our photo while we are on someone else’s property — they can evict us, but they have no superior rights over our photo.

    Cool or what?

  • owen

    I noticed their Twitter account, @survivalmag, is mentioned hundreds of times per day by an army of obviously-fake spam bots that look for anyone mentioning anything survival-related in their tweets and then suggesting they follow a range of other accounts, one of which is @survivalmag and the other two barely even tweet at all.

    Looks suspiciously like they pay for this service, if you ask me (which you didn’t, but I’m generous like that) which makes me think these guys really are a quality class act.

  • RonT

    Maybe the magazine was counting on the end of the world to cover this up…