Swedish metal band, Arch Enemy, and an associated clothing label, are being torn to shreds on social media for banning and intimidating a concert photographer over a minor copyright incident.
Thunderball Clothing, a Polish fashion label which re-posted the photographer’s image of the band on Instagram, has since apologised, but the fierce online backlash has forced it to shut up shop.
Meanwhile Arch Enemy’s lead singer, Alissa White-Gluz, and band manager, Angela Gossow, are defending the band’s aggressive approach toward the photographer. They, along with the band, remain in the firing line of photography advocates – and those ever-present online trolls – who feel an apology is owed.
Back in June…
Dutch photographer, J Salmeron, captured Arch Enemy at a metal festival in June 2018 for his online music blog, Metal Blast.
He posted a photo of White-Gluz to Instagram. The singer then re-posted his photo and credited Salmeron, and the two creatives had a friendly exchange about the photo.
In a lengthy blog post that went viral, the photographer said he’s okay with fans and even band members re-posting photos provided the images aren’t edited or used commercially.
But Thunderball Clothing re-posted the image to promote its custom products designed for White-Gluz, which Salmeron considered to be commercial use.
He informed Thunderball Clothing’s designer, Marta Gabriel, via e-mail that the post ‘represents a clear and blatant breach of my copyright’:
This infringement is, of course, made more serious when we take into consideration that your use of my photo is in connection with your business, which you are trying to promote with this post.
In general, I charge a fee of at least €500 (five hundred Euro) to businesses that have posted my work in an unauthorized manner. In this case, however, I would be willing to forget about this problem and let you keep up the above post in exchange for a donation of €100 (one hundred Euro) to the Dutch Cancer Foundation. This is an organization that seeks to benefit cancer research as well as improve the quality of life of cancer patients. I can send you a link for the donation (which would be direct to the foundation, not through me) if you accept this method of payment.
Gabriel didn’t respond to the e-mail. Instead she forwarded it to White-Gluz, and asked the singer what to do.
The band then e-mailed Salmeron, telling him that White-Gluz’s fans and sponsors, including Thunderball Clothing, are authorised to share photos of the singer.
‘Arch Enemy loves to have nice cooperation between photographers, fans and festivals, and sharing moments from the concert is a way to stay connected. Generally speaking, photographers appreciate having their work shown as much as possible and we are thankful for the great photos concert photographers provide.’
Musicians often assume copyright ownership over concert images, depending on how the contract is worded. In this case, the photographer says he has retained the copyright ownership.
Salmeron wrote in the blog post that this e-mail perpetuated ‘the ridiculous system that some bands expect to have with photographers: They let them come into the pit, expect to have the absolute and perpetual right to use the photos in whatever way they want, and pay photographers in “exposure,” by using their work before a massive audience’.
The photographer responded to Arch Enemy, telling them they cannot choose who is authorised to use his images. That’s not how copyright works. And while he’s happy for fans and sometimes musicians to post his pictures, Thunderball Clothing was promoting its business with the photo.
Salmeron expected an apology over what would could have been put down to a simple misunderstanding, but instead things fired up.
He received this e-mail:
‘Fair enough, Mr Salmeron.
‘We have immediately removed the picture you took at FortaRock. By the way, we are sure you don’t mind that you are not welcome anymore to take pictures of Arch Enemy performances in the future, at festivals or solo performances. I have copied in the label reps and booking agent who will inform promoters – no band wants to have photographers on site who later send such threatening correspondence to monetise on their images.
Btw, the email below was not from Marta, but from Alissa herself personally. The artist you blatantly wanted to sell the picture to. Nice price tag. 500 EUR. In bcc the band so they know about you in the future.
Thank you and have a nice day!
Btw – we do frequently donate to charity, but on our own terms and free will.
The photographer felt that copying label reps and booking agents was an attempt to have him banned from more concerts than just Arch Enemy.
He contacted White-Gluz via Instagram, and she claimed that he was effectively forcing her fans to cough up €500 to re-post an image.
Photographer fights back
Salmeron went public with the ordeal in December, posting what he says is the entire exchange between him and the band.
His story was picked up by both the music and photo media, including photography news aggregator Petapixel.
The photographer wrote:
‘Arch Enemy‘s stance in regards to photographers, as demonstrated by the band’s very aggressive approach against me for simply seeking some form of compensation from one of their sponsors, shows their absolute disregard for artists whose art isn’t their art.
They (as they should) expect compensation for their work, but they don’t seem to think that others should be compensated as well. As a matter of fact, and as Angela Gossow‘s actions clearly show, they will try to stomp and trample on anyone who seeks such compensation. Nothing else can explain why she went out of her way to contact bookers and promoters, hoping to end my photographic career.
What I find most terrifying about Arch Enemy‘s behaviour is that it creates a chilling effect among photographers, all of whom are now expected to simply shut up and take the abuse, unless they are willing to risk their artistic careers. While I have the good fortune of not depending on photography for my income, many other photographers aren’t so lucky, and so they cannot afford to run the risk of being blacklisted, knowing full well that it could, quite literally, make it impossible for them to make a living.’
Petapixel‘s version of the article was shared 40,000 times. A YouTube video by Salmeron through Metal Blast has also been viewed over 350,000 times (see below).
Marta Gabriel issued an apology. The following day she announced the unfortunate closure of Thunderball Clothing and her donation to the €100 to the Dutch Cancer Foundation.
In the apology, Gabriel said she forwarded the first e-mail from the photographer to White-Gluz, who told her the band would handle the matter. That was the last she heard of it until the whole thing blew up six months later.
Salmeron said in a Facebook post that he was sorry Thunderball Clothing had shut and the punishment did not fit the crime. He found the band’s conduct far worse.
White-Gluz and Gossow are both defending themselves in Facebook posts. They maintain that Salmeron demanded a €500 fee from Arch Enemy and Gabriel, and they became worried he’d sool his lawyer onto fans who re-posted the image, just like he did to Gabriel.
They also claim that they didn’t attempt to ruin Salmeron by copying in other label reps and booking agents into the e-mail.
Right now the social media account of Arch Enemy is inundated with comments, ranging from reasonable demands for an apology to abuse.
Here’s a few of the most popular comments:
‘Because of the way you “handled” this fiasco from the start, an actual good person, Marta Gabriel (who was the only one to apologize for the error) is now ending her clothing company. Nice job. And you STILL don’t get it,’ wrote one person on Gossow’s Facebook post.
‘The photographer contacted Marta, not you. He wanted 100 euro donated to a cancer charity, not 500 to himself. His photo was used for advertising. You deleting comments and later on the whole post was just dumb. Get a PR agency and apologise,’ said a person who garnered over 2100 likes for the comment.
‘Do you understand we can read your emails since the photographer put them online? So would you please stop lying?’ said another.
Here’s a video that explains thing more in-depth from the photographer’s perspective.
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