[The Color Run and Maxwell Jackson have come to a joint resolution since this article was published. For more info scroll to the bottom of this post for links to their site which has up to date posts on the entire situation.]
"The Best, the Biggest...The Happiest 5k on the Planet" is how the Color Run likes to describe itself to its 2.6 million Facebook fans. But don't let that fool you. The company is suing 21 year old photographer, Maxwell Jackson, because he claims they used his photo illegally. Say what?
Jackson went to one of The Color Run events in Miami in 2012 with some friends from his photography club at Florida Atlantic University, where he is still a student. He photographed the event and posted the images online. He was then approached by Scott Winn, who identified himself as the Photo Director of The Color Run. Winn asked Jackson for permission to use his photos on their Facebook page and said that they would even give him "photo credit wherever (his) photos are used." As a new photographer, Jackson felt this would be a great way to get some exposure. "I was a new photographer and this amazing new company was offering to feature MY photos on THEIR page!" Who would have thought that would take a tun for the worse.
July of 2013 comes around and Jackson is walking around a Sports Authority in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania (no where near Miami) when he was actually handed a flyer featuring HIS photos. On top of the flyer having his images on them without his consent or knowledge, The Color Run did not even give him credit for taking the pictures. Jackson even stated that they are still using his photos on their main websites, such as TheColorRun.co.uk, and even more international sites. Not cool (or legal?).
The photos have also been featured in the U.S. News, Baltimore Sun Times, and by companies such as Coca-Cola. "There are thousands of individual websites all over the WORLD wrongfully using my photos as provided by The Color Run."
Jackson contacted The Color Run to try and receive compensation for the misuse of HIS photos. He instead received a response from Travis Lyman Snyder, owner and founder of The Color Run, which said he "would rather spend $500,000 on lawyers than be extorted by (Jackson)."
On top of that, according to Jackson, Travis Lyman Snyder filed a frivolous trademark infringement lawsuit against Jackson in Utah Federal Court, where The Color Run is centrally located, to sue him into submission. Jackson and his father worked "pro-se" (without a lawyer) on the case at first but then requested counsel from the state of Utah. On December 23, 2013, they received a letter that said their request for counsel was approved so now the clerk of the court would be finding Jackson a lawyer. You can view the full filling here
"I now have pro bono counsel, which means I don't have to pay lawyers hourly for their time, however, I still have to come up with between $50,000-$100,00 in fees connected to standing up for my rights. These fees are expenses tied to the case, such as expert witnesses, copies, postage, stenographers, depositions, travel expenses, etc... Without this additional funding, The Color Run and their deep pockets will get away with infringing on the copyright and stealing my artwork."
As a college student, Jackson says he is already in debt with loans and there is no way he could come up with the money to fight this case along. He is asking for donations on his GoFundMe campaign to help raise the funds for this case.
UPDATE: Jackson reached out to me and gave me the reason for him being sued by The Color Run. Here is what he said. "About 5 months after I shot the race I was contacted by someone I knew that worked with a company that sets up, breaks down and staffs Color Runs. They asked if I wanted to work color runs and it sounded like fun and good money so I said yes. While working for Silverback (company I worked with) I made my fb employment status that I worked at Silverback and The Color Run. That is their filing on the case but they have also argued that because their trademark "Color Run" is in my photos they are entitled to them."
What are your thoughts on Jackson's situation, and how The Color Run handled the use of his images?
We have reached out to The Color Run for an official response and will update if and when one is received.
UPDATE: It appears many upset readers started commenting on their Facebook wall. Rather than attempt to delete them all (which was their initial move), The Color Run has just removed the ability to comment on their Page.
LAST UPDATE : "I want to sincerely thank everyone for their voices and support as we’ve worked through this issue. We have been able to reach a joint agreement, which meets the needs of maxxsphotography.com and The Color Run. We are happy to have avoided the drain of the legal system and look forward to the continued success of both companies.
As referenced in yesterday’s statement (written below), my hope was always that we would be able to reach a fair and mutually acceptable resolution. I am grateful that through this weekend we were able to resume discussions with Max and come to a solution.
I want to be clear that the recently resolved issues were never about The Color Run lifting and stealing images. From the beginning, we had a contractual “use” agreement with Max. We received high resolution, un-watermarked images for use online or in print. The problems arose from a poorly worded, semi-verbal contract. We both had a genuine misunderstanding about the terms of our agreement when it came to photo credit on printed images. The recent negotiations revolved around finding a fair resolution to that misunderstanding.
- If you are a business, be explicitly clear about the use, compensation, and parameters of the agreement with the photographer when sourcing images. Make sure it is all in writing in order to protect each other.
- If you are a photographer, understand the level of access you are providing and also protect yourself with clear, written, release agreements.
- Lastly, if a misunderstanding arises, enter into a respectful and ethical discussion about how to resolve the issue. In our new social/visual/online world, businesses and photographers need a great relationship more than ever. Assume the best in each other and make it work.
There is no doubt that the social media voices on both sides of the issue provided meaningful insight during this process. I sincerely appreciate those that presented thoughtful perspectives on the situation and how to resolve it.