Famed Music Producer Caught in Photographer Drama

Famed Music Producer Caught in Photographer Drama

Last night on the EDM Photographers Facebook group a member posted a tweet from an upset photographer who wasn't properly credited for an image that famed music producer, Diplo, posted on his Instagram feed. The concert photography collective, Visualbass, tweeted their irritation to Diplo about the uncredited photo and was met with a rather unpleasant and public exchange from the artist.

[UPDATE 12/12/13 I have been in contact with Visualbass and have added a few quotes in the article]

Before I get into this article let me first explain to some of the readers who may not know this particular genre of music very well exactly who Diplo is. Diplo or Thomas Wesley Pentz is an American producer and DJ. He is best known for his EDM group Major Lazer. He has collaborated with some of the biggest names in music (Beyoncé, No Doubt, Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg, and Santigold). He produced the Grammy nominated song "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. and has a new track with Sia and The Weeknd on the new Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack. The man is a big player in the music industry and it's safe to say that he is the future of mainstream pop music. He even has his own Blackberry commercial and has modeled for fashion designer Alexander Wang.



The photography collective Visualbass was granted a press pass to the Mad Decent Block Party in Toronto (Mad Decent is owned by Diplo) to shoot on behalf of the blog ThisSongSlaps.com. When shooting at the show the photographer didn't sign a copyright grabber or contract giving their copyrights away, although other photographers present at the concert did. The photographer was allowed photo pit access and took some pretty killer photos of the event, but when Diplo posted the photo on his Instagram the photographer took to twitter to express his disappointment.


"Thissongslaps.com approached me to shoot this Block Party at Fort York. My agreement with the blog was that they leave my watermark on and they'll get selected pics free of charge. I was given a media pass at the gate but not a AAA [All Access] pass and there was no contract of any sort to sign when I got the pass. I was able to go into the media pit and everywhere else but NOT BACK STAGE, but I snuck back there anyways because I had a lot of friends who are artists and I just wanted to say hi." - Tobias Wang (owner/photographer Visualbass)




An artist that doesn't credit a photographer isn't anything new, in fact, it's a huge problem in our industry. The majority of concert photographers don't make enough to have concert photography as their main niche in photography. The majority of the time we pay out of pocket to be there, to shoot for a venue, promoter or even the artist themselves. So, when a successful artist who at that point should understand the idea of copyright laws should know that it stings when others use your work without proper due credit. I find the whole situation quite ironic in a way that an artist who values his intellectual property rights would devalue ours. At this point I'm not entirely blaming Diplo though since the photo wasn't actually uploaded by him personally, but by his management team. (Looks like his management team needs a little lesson on properly crediting photographers.) It's his very public reaction to the tweet that caught us (EDM photographers) off guard.




"WTF?!, was my initial reaction but it wasn't the first time he's done this. I wasn't even mad when I saw he'd instagrammed the post I just re-instagrammed it with my comment. I attached a screengrab of our conversation via Facebook in July where he blatantly said 'totally stealing for my twitter thanks!' referencing to this image from that same party : http://visualbass.com/products/diplo-11x11in-print and as you can see from the screengrab that I was actually cool with it simply because he said thanks at the end of comment. So I was a little sad that he didn't bother to credit me and that he cropped out the watermark." - Tobias Wang (owner/photographer Visualbass)

In two simple sentences Diplo completely devalues the hard work that we as photographers do. Those of us that do this legitimately (whether it's shooting for press, the artist, venue or promoter) are there not because we want the thrill of being backstage. We're not all groupies with DSLRs running around backstage hoping for a chance to speak to the artist. No, we're there because we belong there. We are providing a service to whoever our client may be. Instead of quietly dealing with the situation and removing the photo or adding credit he completely dismisses the photographer altogether.



This disappointed me a great deal being that Diplo/Major Lazer is one of my favorite artists to not just listen to, but shoot. I have had the pleasure of shooting his EDM group Major Lazer twice in my career as the house photographer for a national-level promoter. All I can say is that Diplo and his crew put on one hell of a show. As a professional concert photographer it's hard to NOT get a good photo of Diplo if you have some decent access. The level of interaction with the crowd is insane. While Major Lazer have used my photos without personal credit to me, it wasn't so much of a deal to me since I was paid by the promoter for this exact purpose. It would have been a nice gesture though. I do love it when a major artist takes the time to give me proper credit, like in the past with Showtek and Steve Aoki, who actually tagged me in each individual image they posted on various social media sites. That is what I call mutual respect for the art that we produce.

"The funny thing is that most people in this world don't care about how a photograph is made especially in a club. The biggest misconception about clubscape photographs and photographers is that what they do is not hard. Digital photography did not help that reputation and neither did smartphones. I've been shooting since 1999 and worked a lot with artists throughout my career. It used to be a lot easier to contact the artist and managements because there wasn't a lot of photographers, but now it is nearly impossible to get a hold of anyone because of all the white noise that social media causes.
Artist management like that are ignorant and lazy. This simply exemplifies the lack of integrity as a company and their roster.
" -Tobias Wang (owner/photographer Visualbass)




In a surprising social media twist people have stood behind Visualbass and took to defending him against the artist. Which is a pleasant change in which usually fans will defend the artist and their behavior till the bitter end.




After a few more exchanges between Diplo and his twitter followers VisualBass tweets a retort that flips the tables dramatically.




While the condescending tone of Diplo's tweets are disheartening for photographers and videographers at best, he's right. (On a side note when I shot the Major Lazer concerts I was, in fact, the only official photographer shooting for the promoter along with one other photographer shooting for Eyewax.TV for UME 2013. There were only a handful of press photogs there. The other concert, Isla Del Sol, I shot solo along with a videographer, no press was allowed. There was not a large number of photographers at either concert.)

VisualBass has been reportedly selling non-limited and unsigned $2 "posters" of Diplo, along with a slew of other mainstream artists since July. Most photographers wouldn't give a second thought to putting up a photo that they took at a concert for sale in the form of a print, but knowing from recent conversations with famed DJ photographer Drew "Rukes" Ressler from Rukes.com that simply taking the photo doesn't necessarily give you the right to sell it as a print. In Rukes's F.A.Q. he answers the question on why his prints are very limited.

"The prints are limited since copyright law limits the amount of prints a photographer can make. If you go over that certain amount, the prints become “merchandise” and must be licensed in accordance with the artist pictured."- Drew "Rukes" Ressler


Photo by: Rukes Photo by: Rukes


So, this presents a good question. If I take a photo of an artist at a concert and own my full copyrights can I sell prints of my work? The answer to this has been notoriously grey in nature due to legal jargon and confusion between concert photographers, but the short answer is... yes, with strict limitations. Let me break down on how U.S. Copyright handles fine art prints.

US Copyright (excerpts):
A “work of visual art” is —
(2) a still photographic image produced for exhibition purposes only, existing in a single copy that is signed by the author, or in a limited edition of 200 copies or fewer that are signed and consecutively numbered by the author.

A work of visual art does not include —
(A)(i) any poster, map, globe, chart, technical drawing, diagram, model, applied art, motion picture or other audiovisual work, book, magazine, newspaper, periodical, data base, electronic information service, electronic publication, or similar publication;
(ii) any merchandising item or advertising, promotional, descriptive, covering, or packaging material or container;

In layman's terms you can sell prints of an artist (or rather anybody) as long as they are limited to an edition that only includes 200 copies or less, are signed and consecutively numbered by the photographer. Usually fine art prints are somewhat expensive compared to normal prints, printed with high-quality paper and will explicitly state that it is a fine art or gallery print. If it doesn't follow these guidelines it no longer falls under a limited edition print, but rather commercial merchandise, and you must either have a model release from the artist or work out a licensing deal with them. You must also own the full copyrights to the image in question. The majority of concert photographers are forced to sign their copyrights away just to gain access to an artist which is a travesty in itself. That topic is for another article.

It's unclear if VisualBass is breaking any copyright laws by selling the posters, since the company resides in Canada (where the photos were shot) and they state that they never signed any sort of copyright grabber or contract with the promoter or artist. I'm going to assume by the price and the unsigned and unnumbered nature of the posters that this hardly falls under the definition of a fine art print and that Diplo is correct in stating that they are using his likeness commercially. The only time that Visualbass says that the posters are actually limited-edition prints are in a Tumblr post marketing their posters. Then again, I'm no intellectual property lawyer.



I want to end this with the unfortunate truth that some artists in the music industry just do not respect what we do. All of the hours we put into shooting, editing, the small to no compensation, and the under-appreciation can eventually disillusion you as a concert photographer. That doesn't mean we don't love what we do. I personally loved shooting Diplo and getting the chance to make him look like the rockstar that he is, because in essence that's what we do. We capture the artist in the best possible light to help promote themselves. I just wish that big artists would have enough common sense to see that the true professional photographers in this industry deserve respect just as much as they do.

To close the article I want to publish some of the best photographs of Diplo that were captured by members of my EDM Photography group, EDM Photographers. We are the largest collective of EDM photographers on social media, and I'm proud to say that we have the best of the best in the group. I want to thank those that submitted their photos for this article. You can also view the entire set from the Mad Decent Block Party by Visualbass on their Facebook Page.

All photos used with permission.


Photo by: Avi Raz Photo by: Avi Raz




Photo by: ClutchPro-Vids Photo by: ClutchPro-Vids


Photo by: Calder Wilson Photo by: Calder Wilson



Photo by: Joeri Swerts Photo by: Joeri Swerts


Photo by: Adam Oles Photo by: Adam Oles



Photo by: Robert Underwood Photo by: Robert Underwood


Photo by: Roger Ho Photo by: Roger Ho


Photo by: Chiara Gerek Photo by: Chiara Gerek


Photo by: Bethany Rees Photo by: Bethany Rees


Photo by: Nick Ford Photo by: Nick Ford


Photo by: Wrenn Okada Photo by: Wrenn Okada



Photo by: Tyler Hill Photo by: Tyler Hill


Photo by: Chadwick Morris Photo by: Chadwick Morris


Photo by: John Bolen Photo by: John Bolen


Photo by: Mantas Ivanauskas Photo by: Mantas Ivanauskas




Photo by: Eric Fehringer Photo by: Eric Fehringer


Photo by: Oh Dag Yo Photo by: Oh Dag Yo

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It's more then ironic to see this on fstoppers who also don't care about photo credits. See here for instance: Disappointed in Fstoppers.com: Wholesale Copyright Infringement as a Business Model

Rebecca Britt's picture

I have never had an issue with not crediting photographers in my articles on Fstoppers, so I'm not sure why you're personally attacking my article.

Every photographer has been credited in this article and I even have permission to post them.

Rebecca, I didn't attack your article nor did I want to offense you. This article above was the first time I've heard about Fstoppers.com and I'm glad that copyright infringement is now a theme on Fstoppers.

THis was the first time youve heard about fstoppers.com and youre able to comment about how they dont ever give credit? Are you high?

Just read the above properly before insulting others.

So you come here and make a sweeping generalization about a whole site based off one article you read somewhere else? Sounds like im not the one that needs to worry about insulting others.

I think the confusion comes from the assumption that Fstoppers actually decides what they put up. According to the owners, they don't. They put up stuff because they find it interesting, according to their previous statements, but don't actually exercise any kind of safeguards against ethics violations.

They have handled it well (they have removed some articles that were lifted directly from other sources). They have handled badly (which is what the article referenced above is about). And, they have refused to declare any position at other times (the whole Jasmine Star crap).

I think Rudi does have a point. Rebecca Britt hasn't had any issues, but
the site has been embroiled in some controversies. The question is how much of those controversies reflects Fstoppers' owners' and managers' own ethics. According to the owners: None— each author's opinion is strictly their own and what they choose to publish is also their own. Personally, I think it is disingenuous and an ethically dubious way of doing business: Reap the rewards, but claim ignorance when things go wrong.

since you have kind of replied to me in a private way (Your comment is awaiting moderation and you are the moderator), I feel I should explain why I think Rudi's comment is relevant (although distasteful). I am doing so out in the open because.... well... it kind of defends you guys. Which is something you would know if you guys weren't being so defensive.

This article is about Diplo using a photograph without the permission of the photographer and without crediting him. When confronted Diplo reacted poorly. The blogpost Rudi mentions (which I won't link to because it is angry and bitter and, imho, wrong) accuses you guys of almost the same thing.

This gets to the heart of the matter. We are in an age of change, and the rules of usage, both ethically and legally, are having to be re-written. This means that sometimes even well meaning people such as Fstoppers don't get them right. That is directly related to this topic. As the photographer in Ms. Britt's article may himself be crossing a line.

Personally I think the "Fstoppers steals" blogpost is wrong in many ways (a lot of what he is angry about, I would consider fair use), but he also points to certain gray areas that you guys may or may not crossed a line (how much original content is necessary and/or how many images can be used before it stops being exposure and starts being appropriation).

I think you also agree with me on these points as I have seen a lot less of the "inspiration" type postings recently and a lot more original content or posts referencing CC licensed material (vimeo/youtube, etc.).

The one thing "the hater" gets right, and I see it here today, is that you guys are incredibly defensive when someone criticizes you. You don't handle it well. In that way, Fstoppers and Diplo seem to have something in common. And that alone makes it relevant.

Patrick Hall's picture

Yeah I don't know what is going on with the comments...or why I would need to be approved by moderation :/

What is the link Rudi is referencing? I just see him linking to Fstoppers.com a bunch.

You can Google the words after the colon to find the blogpost.

I first came across it a while back when searching for an Fstoppers article about copyright infringement (so I am sure there are plenty of other people who have seen it, too). It really is just an angry screed of someone on their high horse. But there are underlying issues about usage and the gray areas of digital sharing relevant to anyone in the industry (although he doesn't discuss their nuances and interpretations— he just takes the side that you guys are evil. Commenters here often do the same thing with the subjects of articles you post). It is worth you knowing about, but I wouldn't take it to heart.

I <em>would </em>suggest that you guys develop a better strategy about dealing with negative comments, though. There are going to be people who will link to that blogpost every time you guys put up an article about copyright infringement (hey, I might even do it if I think it is relevant). Might I suggest a simple statement, when confronting those commenters, saying something along the lines of :

"I believe I speak for all the contributors when I say that we try our best when considering copyright and usage of other artist's work. These issues are often more complicated than they first appear, especially where digital publishing is concerned, and, as always, we welcome feedback. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we have to revisit posted articles. In the end though, we will never make 100% of our readers happy and will have to follow our own judgement when questions arise. We agree that these are important issues and important discussions to have. Thanks, guys, for being a part of that " (or something to that effect.) Then let it lie.

I think it would serve you much better than simply labeling them as "haters". Some are, but some just have more passionate and different views on this subject (often I am in that camp). Avoiding the topic entirely or fighting with your readers only feeds the fire. And, as frustrating as the complainers are (one reason I am not a blogger) and no matter how valid you are in that frustration, complaining back to them or about them makes you seem.... sorry... kind of like them.

This may come across as a little preachy (and perhaps it is), but it is meant as just friendly advice.

Feel free to share this with other contributors if you wish. (I don't care if you share it with Jerrit. I have the feeling he enjoys the shouting match and joining in on the dickish behavior.)

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

Ironic you find us "stealing" but come back for more. If you could please make insightful comments and stop trolling, you can help make this community better.

Not helpful.

And evidence why Fstoppers should have some editorial control over its contributors.

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

Or comments.

That may be. That begs several questions then. Are the people who read the site just readers, or are they participating? Is participation the key to the business model? If you are allowing participation, do you censor negative comments, or would that negate participation?

Coincidentally, since you used the word "us" do you speak for Fstoppers officially, or are you just speaking for yourself? That is the point I was making in a previous post. There is confusion over what to attribute to the organization of Fstoppers and what is just one person's voice/opinion/failure to honor copyright.

The fact that Rudi did not express him/herself with anymore maturity than you did, still does not negate the point. There is a specter of dodgy ethics hovering over Fstoppers. And that will influence how readers understand any ethical point you contributors might make. I would go so far to say that any ethical controversies from one author/contributor is a disservice to the other contributors as long as the Fstoppers logo is over both articles. And as such, the contributors should be leading the call to own and address these issues.

Silencing a commenter who mentions it does nothing to address that issue.

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

It is great when people comment and are on topic. Not hey
check out my blog post about blahaha… I have been with fstoppers since day one
and since the first comment we dream of a world that contains constructive comments that help the community. I really would like to get to know the commenters and grow
with them. Are you against this Mike?

Your definition of "off topic" is different than mine. I would say the larger subject of this article is about the ethics of not attributing copyrighted work. This is a difficult and complicated subject matter especially in this day and age. I would say pointing out this very site's own failings in this regard is very much on topic.

Would you now like to talk publicly about the ethical boundaries of addressing me as "Mike"? I am willing if you would like to post why you are doing it.

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

Your account is linked to this facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mike.hoogterp . We take a lot of effort in contacting the original source. I have abandon several stories because I was unable to make contact with the source.

So, let me get this straight.

<b>You advocate deleting critical comments </b>.

And <b>you are now "outing" a commenter who disagrees with you</b>, because..... you think it will embarrass them?

I am not embarrassed by what I have written here. I gladly own it. I have chosen to remain anonymous to protect one of my employers. The last thing I would want to do is have any problematic posts be associated with them.

You have now tried to negate that. That is highly unethical. Ridiculously unethical. Just what one might expect from an Fstoppers contributor according to Rudi. (The last sentence was rhetorical, just so you understand.)

Rebecca Britt's picture

Hi Jim,

I'm not quite sure how to address the comments that have been put on my article when I feel it has no relevance.

I have been with Fstoppers since May 2012. I have written over 160+ articles on this website and not once have I ever been chastised for failing to credit a photographer. I feel that I have brought a lot of good information to the public, some as a repost with proper credit and some as original pieces; and yes while past contributors have gotten into their fair share of problems from this issue I have not.

I write for Fstoppers because I love sharing thoughts, opinions, other people's amazing work and accolades with you the readers. I post the daily Picture of the Day and use photos submitted by readers from our Facebook group to help spread the word of their immense talents, all with proper credit. I have been loyal to this website and will always stand by their side, because I believe that what we bring to the photography community in this digital age is nothing short of extraordinary.

I haven't gotten wealthy writing for the site, like most people assume, and yes while we do get paid for our work, it's not why we do it, at least not in my case. Lee and Patrick have always been fair and gracious with us as contributors. We have the freedom to express our opinions without the constant worry of having to conform to what most bloggers are forced to write. We do have editors, but they edit, they don't dictate what we write. As a photographer and writer in this industry I am grateful for the freedom.

There have been contributors in the past that have abused that freedom, and for the most part they are no longer with us.

I understand your frustration, but I feel setting up a soapbox on my article that while talks about the subject of crediting, that hasn't broken any photographer/blogger ethics, is frankly unfair to me as the author of this piece.

Every photo that has been posted on this article including the photos from Visualbass have not only been credited, but I have gotten permission from the owner to be posted on this site. The 20+ photos at the end have all been personally submitted to me by members of my EDM Photography group. They have all been credited properly. I am thankful that they trust me to treat their work with the respect it deserves. They trust me because we are a tight-knit community if not a family of sorts. I have the hope that the readers of Fstoppers will be able to feel that this is a safe place to come together as a community and discuss the topics posted in the articles.

So, for now I ask that we please stay on topic and not distract from the article and the issues raised in it.

I thank you for being a reader and I would love to see your comments on the issues discussed in the original article.

Ms. Britt,

I appreciate your response, and the reason you love posting is exactly why I read it.

I am sorry that you feel that this is not on topic (it took a bit of tangent in this thread). I actually quite enjoyed this article for the very reason that I think Rudi's original comment, although bitter and distastefully presented, is part of that discussion— copyright and attribution are not black and white issues. Your article was incredibly thorough and shows how complicated ownership and rights can be (ie. selling prints v. selling licensed merchandise— a marvelous insight I had not considered before).

I believe that Fstoppers own history with accusations of copyright infringement (rightly or wrongly) can be part of that discussion.

Rebecca Britt's picture

I suppose we can agree to disagree.

That works for me. That is part of having a discussion sometimes.

I just find it disheartening that I have now had to justify my participation and others' participation in the "community" (to use Mr. Pruyn's word) to three Fstoppers contributors (one is a founder) in what I thought was a discussion about the issues of fair usage— talk about off topic! I was neither abusive nor hostile (well, maybe a little snarky with Mr Pruyn in the first comment. I should not have come so close to matching his tone) while, ironically, I was trying to explain to another commenter why their attack on you guys was mistaken (although I have my own criticisms of Fstoppers' editorial style).

I am sorry you guys have taken this so personally. I don't think attacking your readers is the way to handle it, though, even if you think they deserve it.

Patrick Hall's picture

I'm confused now, are we talking about ethics while posting under false names. My head is about to explode.

Anonymity is not necessarily unethical. In this case, it was purposefully done to protect my employer from viewpoints I express outside of work. It was not done to abuse others anonymously (ie. to troll, harass, or call people names). It is not my place to cost one of my employers business simply because a client Googles me.

But hey, if that is what you want to say to avoid the issue. Okay. Classy move everyone.

Taylor Layne's picture

As a fellow "EDM Priority" photographer, this article is spot on! (TLaynePhoto)

Sadly, Diplo is just saying what many other artists dare not say out loud. Most artists see us as "just another button pusher," and don't realize that it takes a lot more than just pushing a button to create images that document their journeys so beautifully. Without us, how would these artists show their grandchildren how bad ass they were... #PicOrItDidntHappen

To the artists that do get it and do respect us and see us as peers, I know you're out there and please disregard my first statement. You are what make the circle go round, thank you&lt;3


Taylor Layne's picture

Just to give a little insight to the situation from another photographer's point of you.. I'm 26 years old and have been shooting photography for nearly 2 years as a career! I'm both a professional photographer and videographer. I have been shooting alongside the massive expansion of EDM since late 2010. I've had national level (world known) DJ's &amp; Producers use my photos on nearly every social media network. Some have paid for the rights to the photos, however MOST have not.. As an up and coming photographer, personally I really didn't mind it.

As a growing photographer in the scene, I saw it as a means of mass marketing for my photography! I haven't had the misfortune of an artist acting like this ever with me personally, although I have had some management teams not credit and even CROP out my watermark (meaning the removal of my digital signature and logo off of the image being posted). I have spoken directly with managements and often times the actual artist! Who then have negotiated compensation or actually reverted back and gave me credit for my work that they posted.

To speak on most of the EDM photographers and to those who shoot professionally I've met in the scene, WE LOVE WHAT WE DO! Its just so disheartening and disappointing to hear and read about an artist, whom has millions of fans, act so disrespectful towards someone in the line of work that helps market this artist on a visual platform for the whole world to see! - TLaynePhoto

David Geffin's picture

Great article.

While it would have been nice for Diplo to provide credit and not come off sounding like an egotistical ass, i think this is simply a sign of the times. As someone who had an uncredited shot of a huge artist used this year on his IG account, i understand where the photographer is coming from, but arguing about it - whether you have signed rights over or not - is kind of futile, and trying to make some money off of it doesn't help the situation at all, and could in fact detract from the issue at hand.

Like most disciplines in photography, particularly those that put you close to "celebrities" which is much more what these djs/producers have become, not the grimey djs working hard in their bedrooms praying for any exposure they could get, you get hordes of people who want to be close to them. That includes photographers/videographers and anyone with a DSLR.

The digital revolution means anyone can do this, often with pretty decent (or acceptable) results, even with cell phones (ask any staffer at a newspaper who still has a job about that). It means it's often seen as an undervalued commodity these days by those outside the industry.

It takes 2 to tango and part of the reason it's like this is many photographers simply accept a shoot for a pass or shoot for nothing as fair payment for images. They have to to make a name for themselves and break in, right? That's the argument we hear in all disciplines, whether it's weddings, fashion, concerts etc - we all have done it, some people see it as an absolute necessity, some abhor it. I'm not arguing either way, it's just the way it is.

Does that make it right to use our work and not credit it? Of course not but it will continue to happen until something changes. Does that mean we can band together and form some kind of union to stop it? Unlikely, too many people out to get theirs at any cost, but would be a nice idea to have a common group that sets a minimum standard.

No easy answers and while i feel for the photographer in question, it's an unfortunate sign of the times. I do think that trying to sell some cheap prints to "get back" isn't the answer though; that doesn't really pave the way for any sort of meaningful change of mindset amongst those we shoot to be taken seriously, especially if it's just credit for images we want, rather than to be "making something" off the back of these artists.

Cool article!

He looks like the part too...

The real problem here is when people think of a DJ as an artist.