The Color Run Responds in Regards to Suing College Photographer

The Color Run Responds in Regards to Suing College Photographer

In case you have not heard, earlier today, we published "The Color Run Sues College Photographer After He Asks for Compensation for Image" in which we shared a crazy story told by the photographer, Maxwell Jackson. To sum it up, in case you decide not to visit the link, Jackson took photos for one of the The Color Run's events in 2012 with his college group. He shared his images online and was approached by someone from The Color Run asking to use his images on Facebook, with his name attached, so he can get exposure. A few months later, Jackson sees his image on promotions in Sports Authority. Fast forward a bit, he contacts The Color Run asking for compensation for use of his images, and to point out they did not do what they said they would. Shortly after, he finds out The Color Run is suing HIM in court for posting on Facebook that he worked for them.

The Color Run's owner and founder, Travis Snyder, has reached out to the Fstoppers team and sent us a response to his side of the story.

I really recommend visiting our last post to see the entire story that he shared with us to get a full understanding of what is going on. But now, let's take a look at what Travis, owner and founder of The Color Run, has to say in response to Maxwell Jackson.

"Hi, this is Travis Snyder. I wanted to respond personally to this matter. As the founder of The Color Run, I've had the opportunity to work with many successful creative partnerships of all sizes, including amazing photographers. I respect their ability to capture the essence of our event and fully believe that they deserve attribution for their work to showcase their talents. This issue with Max is a single anomaly and quite frankly makes me sad. Max first came to shoot The Color Run because we granted his school class non-commercial access to come shoot the race in Miami where the photos in question were taken. After this, Max actually ended up working our events over the next year as a non-photographer and traveling and setting up with our traveling teams.

About a year later, Max first initiated questions about the use of some of the Miami photos. We sat down and genuinely tried to reach an amicable solution, including offering financial compensation and exposure through our networks. Our offers were declined, and met with the following demands:(language taken from legal filings)

  • "$100,000.00 US deposited into my business bank account” (This amount went on to be raised by Max to $300,000).
  • "To be named the Official Photography Sponsor of The Color Run (Globally) for the remainder of its existence."
  • "Max Jackson Logo to be added in sponsors section on the bottom of all web pages"
  • "My name to read at the bottom of any TCR photo's used in legible print from the next print run forward as, Photograph by Max Jackson”
  • "if no efforts are made within 15 days, to contact me I will be forced to take further action"

Understandably, these demands were quite difficult for any organization. They went far outside professional compensation and credit for photography work. We discussed other options, and ultimately when Max said he was planning to sue rather than continue a dialogue, there was little option left but to defend our rights through the legal system. I have been and will continue to be at the table to visit about how to resolve this outstanding issue.

As hard as it is to see tweets calling me a "#scumbag", I am amazed by the Internet and its ability to give everyone a voice. I also appreciate the opportunity to share more information and insight into a complex situation. My personal hope and intention has always been to get this resolved directly, amicably, and fairly.

-Travis"

What are your thoughts on this entire situation?

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271 Comments

AdamB's picture

Sure doesn't explain how you go from Facebook sharing to full print campaign and other corporate use

Mark Fa'amaoni's picture

This only applies if you believe only Jackson's side of the story. As an old friend used to say, Truth is a triple edged sword, your side, their side and the truth. Jackson's story never made 100% sense when I read it: and I'm sure there is much more to learn as the days go by.

http://www.gofundme.com/thecolorrunsuedme

If he really insisted on being named the Official Photography Sponsor of The Color Run (Internationally) for the remainder of its existence, and if there were in fact talks about compensation at the time the images were used, then this story turns completely on its head.

AdamB's picture

No, what I wrote simply "applies" . The organization had no right to use the images beyond what was agreed upon. What that was, could be debated as that wasn't addressed in this post. If it were just Facebook album inclusion, then there's a problem. Once the talks started, it seems the damage (use outside of agreed upon terms) was done. Whether the photographer truly wanted outrageous terms, is then irrelevant. He may have just wanted what he felt to be just recompense. Or he could be delusional.

Factors that remain could be rights grabbing contracts signed onsite, copyright registration (what will the courts award vs could be awarded).

I wanted to donate but decided to hold back until some back and forth came to light

Mark Fa'amaoni's picture

But we don't know what was agreed upon. We have got two very different stories. Jackson's story was that it went from "Facebook to full print campaign and other corporate use." That isn't how Synder claims it went down at all. The terms Jackson asked for is relevant if the terms of usage of the images had been discussed and agreed to previously. Until all that comes out (and it looks like its gonna come out in the court of law) what you said "simply doesn't apply."

AdamB's picture

Fair enough, I read this post like he glossed over the claimed egregious use and went straight to post offense negotiation.

Mark Fa'amaoni's picture

No worries. Its all "he said, he said" at the moment. I felt that Jackson had been wronged this morning, but now I'm simply not so sure.

AdamB's picture

Think I clicked on the wrong reply link

Maybe not

Eric Boesch's picture

The "there are two sides to every story" point seems deliberately obtuse in this case. Look at what The Color Run's founder did not say: that they had an agreement giving them the right to use the photographs outside of Facebook. It resembles a he-said, the-other-guy-ducked-the-question situation at this point, and reading between the lines, that is nearly a confirmation.

Mark Fa'amaoni's picture

You may be content to be on the internet lynch mob Eric, but I am not. The case is obviously more complicated than what is presented here. If you happen to know every single fact of the case feel free to present it. Otherwise I'm prepared to wait for more facts to come out, how about you?

Eric Boesch's picture

I seem to have left my rope behind. My point is simply that most people in these discussions don't end up releasing statements that include a lot of details, none of which really rebut the key points made by the other side, unless they really don't have a good answer. I'm sure the rule isn't totally reliable, but it has worked for me so far.

rfoshee's picture

I can assure you, Snyder is leaving out a lot of details and since there's no frame of reference for time, makes it appear that Jackson asked for all this at once which I know, for a fact, is not the case. Those demands came at the end of a few months' worth of trying to negotiate with Snyder and TCR.

Mark Fa'amaoni's picture

I don't know who you are: so please don't be offended that I am not taking your "assurance" as fact. This is the internet so feel free to make any claims you like: but I'm pretty sure both sides are leaving out plenty of detail.

rfoshee's picture

I understand your trepidation, it's quite valid. After all, who is this random internet person who claims to know things not published in this article? I only know what I know because I know Max personally. I've actually emailed the author of this article, John White, a little bit of backstory about this and I hope he publishes it soon. The good news is while the details are being left out in articles like this, they're in the court documents, so what I little I do know, the court knows, Max knows, Snyder knows, and anyone else can know them if they purchase the documents from pacermonitor.com.

Admitting I know Max can engender great concerns over bias and that I only want to trash Snyder and TCR. Truthfully, that's basically the farthest thing from my mind, I wish them no ill will. I want this to end amicably though I doubt it will. My greatest concern with this case is that, as a fellow photographer, companies have to honor contractual agreements and can't walk those back just because they may have the money and legal might to push a college kid around.

Mark Fa'amaoni's picture

Well I'm not buying any documents and I'm not paying anyone's legal bills. So it looks like those who don't want to spend any money will never know the real facts of the case until it hits the courts.

rfoshee's picture

I don't blame you, I'm not buying the documents either, I don't have $5 a document for a few dozen documents. Given the extremely wide media exposure and how unfavorable this looks for one party, I expect this to never go to court, an agreement will be "reached at the last moment for an undisclosed amount" and everyone's happy (or pretends to be). I only make that judgement after watching cases similar to this end up the exact same way.

dan's picture

Just reading your comment again. you statement:

"Given the extremely wide media exposure and how unfavorable this looks for one party, I expect this to never go to court, an agreement will be "reached at the last moment for an undisclosed amount"

is pretty alarming. You didn't say "given the value of his photo i expect this to settle" you said "given how unfavorable this looks for one party"

I suspect this is exactly Max's view.

rfoshee's picture

It's not alarming whatsoever, I said what I said specifically. You seem to think this is about one photo, which means you aren't really aware of the whole situation.

Will McGregor's picture

Jackson hasn't provided the comments/his reply in the message to the PR manager after he asked to use the shots, which, unless they have something in it Jackson doesn't want us to see, why hasn't he shared it ?

Secondly he is already having all his lawyers for FREE he's wanting 50,000 dollars for making copies and travel expenses, does he not want to pay for anything ?!!!

Will he return the 50 grand if he wins 300k ? Not a chance.

Nobody should donate a single cent and he should return the 5 thousand dollars he's already taken from people too kind to read in to it first.

dan's picture

What is Max trying to accomplish? Reading his blog he says he turned down an offer of $30k for that photo. That's an incredible amount of money for a pretty unremarkable photo. Does he honestly believe his photo is worth $100k plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorship exposure? if he believe his photo is worth $100k he really needs some clear headed friends to help him see reason. If he thinks he has the color run cornered and he's going to make an easy buck he shouldn't act morally outraged when they defend themselves.

But leave morality, outrage, pride, all of that out of it. As his friend think pragmatically for a minute. This isn't a movie where he will be vindicated in the end and all the suffering will be worth it. No court will ever award that amount of money. He will experience an extremely painful couple years and since he managed to convince his friends and the internet that he's a victim he will probably go his whole life believing he's a victim and feeling bitter about the experience. it's not going to serve him.

He should take the $30k. If he believes he could have negotiated for more in the beginning then he should take it as a life lesson to get good contracts. You can do far worse than being paid $30k to learn a lesson. Most of us lose money learning life's difficult lessons.

michael andrew's picture

30k is not a lot of money man. I would laugh at that for any stolen copyright of mine by a freaking corporation!

dan's picture

it would be your right to laugh and it's his right to turn down the offer. It's their right to reject his offer. At that point the court is the proper place to settle it. TCR did the right thing in asking our legal system to weigh in.

michael andrew's picture

TCR first did the wrong thing, don't get your timeline mixed up. What so many are confused about is the violation of copyright, not the value of a photo.

Mark Goodwin LRPS's picture

$30k IS a lot of money for student! Remember the kid is NOT a PRO, and even though I will stand up for him and agree with his complaint against Colour Run, Dan makes a lot of sense. My advice would be to take the money, and put it down to life's experience, where you have come out a winner. Now you can start to think about building on the free advertising you have received and put it to good use for the future of your business. That is assuming of course that Max intends to follow a career in Photography.

michael andrew's picture

Your not a lawyer and unfortunately have no weight on what seems to be underway now as a copyright suit. 30k is not a lot of money for said violations. They would not have offered him squat if they did not think they would be pinned for this. His filing status as a photographer and student status is as irrelevant as possible in this case.

Mark Goodwin LRPS's picture

Michael please don't get me wrong, I am not in any way siding with TCR, as I said earlier "I will stand up for him and agree with his complaint". However, I don't need to be a lawyer to ascertain what I feel is a fair amount of money for something that occurred in this situation. There are many stories out there not dissimilar to this where long term established pro photographer have had their work ripped off by similar unscrupulous means. And in many cases those photographers were there at those events for one sole purpose, and that was to take photos to sell, to earn their living, not as volunteers to set up some facilities and to take some snaps because photography was their hobby.
Don't let's lose site of the big picture here (no pun intended) a number of people are throwing their toys out of the cot over this story. It's a shame the same amount of effort has not been put into other more serious violations of photographers.
Just saying!

the_pro_amateur's picture

Ok, so the rule is, you can steal from someone who's less experienced, and that makes it somehow less punishable? I'm so sick of the "pro" snobs who take terrible pictures being jealous of anyone else making money (not necessarily saying that's you). There's just a lot of jealousy coming out in regard to this kid getting more than any other wanna be photographer has seen in their life. Poor, untalented people don't want to see someone else who either has the skill, or just got lucky making more than them.
It's not about a fantasy title and unreadable, coffee stained, Avery business card. It's about someone having their work stolen.

Are you really saying that a 60 year old snob who calls himself a "pro", should be more protected under the law than someone just starting out? More than a woman who takes a cell phone picture of her kid and then has it stolen and sold/published around the world by the brand the kid was wearing? People need to get off their "pro" horse. The ONLY issue, is theft. Going with your logic, a mugger would face a worse sentence if attacking a big muscular guy who knew martial arts, than if he went after a lanky 16 year old girl on her way home from school.

Mark Goodwin LRPS's picture

Why is the person who calls himself a 'Pro' a Snob? By your calculation then, a person who calls themselves a Pro Golfer is a Snob? Or a Professional, musician, Engineer, Chemist? There are very real differences between a real professional whatever, and someone who does things for a hobby. I'm sorry if this comes as a shock to you but there is a big difference between an amateur and a pro. And theft from a pro is more important than theft from an amateur.
I think this is where we should end this now and agree to disagree.

the_pro_amateur's picture

Please copy and paste where I said "everyone in every professional who calls themselves a professional is a snob". Go ahead, we'll all wait. Idiots like you who post this way, love the tactic of twisting what a person says, and changing the point of it so they look like an idiot. It's a very high school girl method of arguing.

I guess you're exactly the elitist, outdated, snob, who thinks they're above others, that this was directed at. You deserve more money, more fanfare, more privileges under the law, simply because of your illusions of grandeur. That's not how it works. You don't deserve anything more than anyone else. My point that you missed (because you're probably part of the problem), is that the title of "pro photographer" means nothing. It's self appointed by people who are generally hired out of obligation of relationship, rather than quality of their work and person. I've seen 13 year old who have more talent than "pro's". I don't want you to get confused again, and think I mean better photos equals a more serious crime, because it doesn't.

Mark Goodwin LRPS's picture

Oh boy am I tired of you!! Did you not say, I'm so sick of the "pro" snobs? Do me a favour why don't you go and take you infantile dribble elsewhere, you have a great career as a Troll! am too long in the tooth to waste anymore time with such as ignorant person as yourself. Goodbye Ms 'the_pro_amature' Your name should have given me a clue I was on a hiding for nothing…haha end Bye!

the_pro_amateur's picture

Oh no, you're sick of me? :'( What ever will I do??
Since we're on a photography site, and the topic is about a photographer having a photo stolen, and the reference was to camera owners who call themselves "pro photographer", who ARE snobs, I would have thought you'd be smart enough to realize nobody here would be talking about... a guitar player?

Anyway, you couldn't find where I actually said it applied to all professions, or where I said every single photographer who is a real pro is a snob, so I understand your frustration when you realized how silly you sounded. You also haven't really offered any explanation as to why someone with a self appointed title should be favored by a legal system that is supposed to defend everyone equally.

Maybe you're too long in the tooth to participate in intelligent conversation. Apology accepted.

"Haha end Bye!" to you too...whatever that means.

rfoshee's picture

If you read his blog and only came away from this thinking it was an issue over one photo, you must have skimmed what he wrote. If you read his blog and think that this is only about money, you must have skimmed what he wrote. There is a much larger issue at play that is more important to photographers as a community that is important in this case, that's why many of us are going to pay attention to the outcome.

the_pro_amateur's picture

To me, the issue isn't that he deserved $100,000, or $300,000. TCR, in the beginning, may have only paid him $30,000 if they initially agreed on that amount, for advertising licenses and whatever else they wanted to do with it. The point is, they seem to have breached whatever agreement they had (for web use and credit), and because of that, they should pay a ridiculous amount. It's not about fair compensation for the photographer, it's about punishing the people who don't respect photography and try to steal it to make a profit.

michael andrew's picture

Exactly. Folks are having a tough time understanding that the "value" of a photo is almost irrelevant. It is the professional and legal practice that is being smeared and that is what copyright infringement laws are designed to protect.

One clear point here for those questioning the value of the photos or the "professionalism" of the photographer: TCR decided to use this work for their branding and marketing WORLDWIDE. So they were comfortable as with his work being the icon and brand of their name, how does that not speak to its value.

Khürt L. Williams's picture

Perhaps -- I'm speculating -- he was offered that money for exclusively world wide rights to his photograph. Given that his photograph was part of a global marketing program I think his expectations are valid.

Anthony Sherratt's picture

True. Even if these outrageous demands were actually made (and they may have been) it doesn't change the fact the organisation used images they didn't have permission or the right to. So the kid is entitled to some compensation. They may not be able to agree and that's what the courts are for. But the company is far from blameless regardless of what demands might have been made.

Barry Dale's picture

The outrageousness of the demands are actually irrelevant and used here as a Red Herring. I'm really not sure why anyone has bought that as showing any kind of character flaw on the part of Max. The demands put on the table by Max are a negotiating position, I think that is obvious. The missing bit about what their counter offers where is so obvious. And the missing bit where they avoid stating that they had or didn't have permission is even more glaring. The fact that the company seems to have used his copyrighted work outside the bounds of the licenses terms he claims to have given means they are negotiating retrospectively. A court can eventually decide what fair compensation would have been and deduce punitive damages for copyright infringement would mean in this case. The company would have been better served negotiating the use before they did it without permission.

Veldask Krofkomanov's picture

You're assuming what was agreed upon. You, nor anyone else, knows exactly what was agreed upon, therefore, you do not know if TCR had or did not have permission to use the photos.

michael andrew's picture

Sure but when was the last time you offered someone 30k to shake hands with a situation where you did nothing wrong?

Daemon's picture

You're friends with the Vorlon ambassador?

Mark Fa'amaoni's picture

I live for the One, I die for the One. ;)

Monk de Scyber's picture

Waaaaaaaaaaaaas yer 'old friend' a Vorlon, cuz Kosh of Babylon 5 said that, and it's Understanding, not truth. ;) Unless yer quoting Sheridan, who said it back to Kosh later.

secretphotolist's picture

Read a bit more. The letter to TCR's founder was a negotiation tactic, and it worked. Common practice to elicit a response from a party you feel wronged by. It ensures they are more likely to reply to you then avoid your communications. There was said to be an agreement, with paperwork signed and sent to TCR and then TCR counsel contacted Mr. Jackson and voided the negotiated offer. This could have all been avoided.

Mark Fa'amaoni's picture

Read what a bit more? If you think this "negotiation tactic worked" then I've got to say your definition of "worked" is a bit tragic.

secretphotolist's picture

Funny, it worked as I stated, as a negotiation tactic. It caused them to enter into negotiations, correct? Perhaps You believed, I implied that my saying "negotiation tactic and it work" was that Mr. Johnson won. That is your misreading my statement as a tactic working does not mean that there was resolution, just to be clear.

Mark Fa'amaoni's picture

Currently Max is putting his hand out asking for charity to raise $50,000 to defend himself in a lawsuit. This is not a successful outcome from a negotiation. That is pretty much the definition of a negotiation fail.

secretphotolist's picture

This conversation is the definition of a fail as you are talking in circles. Good day to you.

Veldask Krofkomanov's picture

Bro, he's not talking about negotiation outcome. He's talking about negotiation initiation. Two completely different things. How can you expect to have a conversation when you can't understand what is being discussed?

Mark Fa'amaoni's picture

Bro, I know exactly what he was talking about.

There are a million different ways to begin a negotiation. Yesterday alone I used a couple of different negotiation tactics. I don't think I have ever started negotiating by insisting on being named the Official Photography Sponsor of any organization for the remainder of its existence.

Is that something you've tried? Is that a common negotiation tactic? Why don't you try it in the real world and tell me how well it works out for you.

Framing the use of this as a "Negotiation tactic that worked" is a load of rubbish. All the use of this tactic did was bring on a lawsuit.

Geoff Fox's picture

If Max's demands are outlandish, as these seem to be, then don't do business with him. However, it seems wrong to appropriate his work unilaterally. Color Run, through Travis, says their 'deal' was for non-commercial use. Disagreement on terms and conditions doesn't give Color Run unencumbered rights to his work.

tl:dr -- Even schmucks have rights.

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