It's amazing that large media corporations continue to believe that they can get away with things like what you're about to read. Darrell Ardita, a cosplay photographer, recently discovered that several of his company's images were being used without his permission for the show Heroes of Cosply on SyFy. Yes, a nationally televised show pertaining to a very specific community opted to steal the images it intended to use rather than ask and pay for them as they should have.
Naturally, they got caught.
Not that it matters at all but SyFy did use a third party to seek permission from the creators of the images and many apparently signed over the rights for free (ridiculous). However, they did not/could not contact all of the photographers and still chose to use the unlicensed images. That's where Darrell Ardita did what many photographers are afraid to do...fight. He and his associate photographer Bryan Humphrey (the one responsible for the images) armed themselves with proof of the violations as well as proof of their ownership and set to invoicing SyFy for the unlicensed usage.
The legal penalty for willful copyright infringement is up to 5 years in prison and up to $250,000 per offense. There are eight offenses in this case. Despite the considerable reimbursement they could gain by taking this straight to litigation Darrell and Bryan offered a settlement of $28,000 total for proper licensing and a small fee for the infringement. As the story stands, SyFy/NBC has tried claiming ownership through permission from the subjects in the photographs. The justification here is co-authorship which would mean that both the photographer and model had an equal part in the image creation. It should be noted that this can only be claimed in a written and signed form from the photographer.
No such form had been signed.
The story is still in development and as it stands the ball is in SyFy's court. They have been given a deadline (September 24th, 2013) to settle by before it enters litigation. Given the scare tactics Darrell has reported the network resorting to I'm very curious as to how this plays out.
You can keep up with the progress of this case on Darrell's Blog
Also, if you'd like to voice your opinion after familiarizing yourselves with the facts...here are the email addresses of the fine folks at NBC that can do something about this: