Photographer Fights Copyright Infringement With Photography

Photographer Ryan Doco Connors recently found one of his images being printed on a t-shirt without his consent. Sugar Factory, the company selling the shirt, claimed that since the image was changed 40% (I have no clue where that number comes from) it was no longer considered his photo. Instead of suing, Ryan fought back with a few new photos and lucky for us, he shares all of the lighting details.

This is exactly how The Stolen Scream story started... Hopefully this isn't the beginning of something much bigger for Ryan.

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Solid video from an awesome photographer. It seems that making this video and his images, allowed him to deal with what happened between himself and Sugar Factory, the best way a creative would know how: he kept working. I admire that and him. 

Agreed. Most people sit back and complain and that will get you no where. I'm not sure where I fall when it comes to "fair use"; the image was changed a lot; if anything I feel like they needed a model release more than a photographers release because the girls face is more "similar" than the actual photography. 

Anyway, great idea, great video. Keep'em coming Ryan. 

All of the video credit goes to my buddy Brian Ceci 

Thanks again all! <3 

Regardless of their claim of "fair-use" for the photograph, the model would still have a claim against them for using her likeness without a release, right?

That bites!!! If I hit the lotto I'm gonna pay for a lawyer!!!(haha) I hate seeing a talented photographer getting ripped off like that:( Great video and cool to see he is making the best of a shit situation. Keep your head up Ryan!

If I'm not off, the sentence: "Hopefully this isn’t the beginning of something much bigger for Ryan." should maybe be changed :)

Other than that, I really do understand the reasons behind not to sue, but laying low does send a wrong kind of message to the companies doing this sort of crap.

It is however good that these stories spread through Fstoppers and other websites quite rapidly and that alone may pressure the companies to reconsider their policies...hopefully.

I agree, Jay! 

I am apalled by this guy's attitude. He's just being ignorant and stupid - if you truly are a professional photographer and take pride in your hard work, then you wouldn't stand down. His action is only saying, "I'm okay with it". Clearly he didn't think about his fellow photographers. We can't let anyone steal work without permission, and this whole "40 % excuse" is bullshit. Simple. You can't take ownership of someone else's work without their consent, no matter how much you change it. It's the law, he should look into it. This isn't only about you. When it happens, think about others in the industry. Don't hurt the industry with ignorance. I'm ashamed of this guy. Be a professional, for crying out loud. 

I think I would of done my research and had a legal battle with the company. If the law states that any derivative of a image is still owned by the original artist/Photographer then no matter how many lawyers the company has, they can't change the law. Maybe? I'm a freak when it comes to this stuff though, I would do the research and fight them on my own if I felt I was right and with a little research could prove it. Don't really like the way companies feel they can get away with stuff. 

they changed the law for casey anthony.... sorry had to say it lol

mark salmon's picture

How is this classed as 'fair use'? A company took an image, without consent, edited it and the sold it on a t-shrit for a profit without compensating either the photographer or the model. I think this is a case of self preservation for the photographer, probably a sensible move!

I think the whole thing stinks. Ryan buddy keep your head up . tho I wish you could fight back legally it's time we sent a message to those dirt bag companies that are raping photographers!

Scott Ferris's picture

All photographers should have this article tattooed on their right hands. An artistic reply is all well and good, and all power to Ryan, but follow that up legally. Rule one, copyright everything you make and show. Register that copyright, if you don't you are effectively giving your work away. If you follow those simple steps then suing will cost you nothing, your case will be strong enough that lawyers will take on your case without payment up front.

For a recent high profile "derivative works" case look at both sides of the argument at these two links.“jay-maisel-is-a-dick”-freetard-mob-savages-octogenarian-photographer-over-copyright/

This is an amazing time we are living in, but it is up to us to protect ourselves.

I was going to post the same article. I think it's easy to miss the point and feel powerless. As Jeremy's article notes you do have options if you register your work and you can register every single photo you take in a year for about the cost of one PocketWizard Plus II -- $175.  Many of us could easily drop 10x that on a single lens and feel justified.  Registration adds teeth, and BIG teeth, to any issue of infringement (at least within the US).

Kind of ironic you are using a "cheap little Ebay softbox ...that are awesome!" that was ripped off from a design originally made by Lasolite.

1) Your point would be more properly directed to someone wearing the Sugar Factory's shirt than the photographer here.  
2) He isn't selling EZbox knockoffs.  
3) Patent law and copyright law are different things. 
4) Lastolite has a patent pending on their EZbox but they didn't invent pop up softboxes.

1.  The point WAS the PHOTOGRAPHER is complaining about being ripped off/copied and the ironic part being having no problem using a product that was ripped off/copied.  The point was directed correctly...
2).  See point 1
3.)  Ripping off either by patent law or copyright is ripping off...see point 1.
4.)  And the ebay rip off version isn't copied from any old pop up's copied from the Lasolite version.  Once again...see point 1.  

I'd be pissed too if I was Ryan. I'm just saying I find it ironic.  Kind of like if someone who uses fileshare often makes a CD of original music, puts it up for sale, then complains it's being downloaded via fileshare.

I immediately thought of the "kind of bloop" issue- if that's fair game I can't see how this wouldn't be. Just because Miles Davis is more famous? Go get Jay Maisel's lawyers Ryan, they wont even have to do any homework...

wasn't this the same thing that obama did with his presidential campaign logo? They stole a photo, changed it a bit and used it as their own. 

Also, that whole 40% is a bunch of B.S.... Because I am pretty sure every time I add a fileter to an image or change the exposure I am changing close to 100% of the image's pixels.  But it is definitely the same image?

Never mess with a company that uses Comic Sans on their website :) Great video and way to deal with the whole situation! 

Well at least we all know now that when licensing an image we need to write in the contract that all derivatives of the original image must be negotiated with the photographer. I for one will never buy from the sugar factory and will inform my friends to do the same.

Im sure you can find someone to take your case.. Fight it!!

There must be a hungry lawyer out there willing to persue this. Good luck

I'm hoping one reads this and contacts me :P

Scott Ferris's picture


Read my first link, he lists 11 first class copyright lawyers, what they need from you (what you need to have done) and how you will qualify for a lawyer to take your case on a no fee basis. But you need to contact them, you have been wronged, you need to instigate any action. Did you register your copyright? If not then you have shot yourself in the foot, but you can still get paid, if you have, you can be looking to collect a five figure sum.

That sucks. I've been following Doco's work for quite some time now on devArt, love it! What a shame!


This reminds me of an earlier article on fstoppers.

Vlad Dodan's picture

He needs to get in contact with Jay Maisel`s lawyers. They will rip through any company for a % of the wins. Just "google"  [Jay Maisel vs Andy Baio] 

+1 to this.  Don't let someone profit off your work without you getting compensated.  This can't be tolerated, and that 40% "rule" doesn't exist.  This should be an open/shut case for even the cheapest copyright lawyer.

The fact that they said they changed the image 40% is proof that they used his image in the first placce?

Vlad, if you copyright your work (in the US) you can do better than that.  US copyright law requires the culprit to pay damages plus legal costs (up to $250,000 ceiling -- that goes a loooooooong way)

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