If you’ve followed my stuff for a while, you know that I can tend to be a bit outspoken about protecting artists rights, especially when it comes to copyright. I’ve stood on more than one soapbox, had a LOT of discussions with folks (and peers) with dissenting opinions, and have come to the conclusion that I’m wrong as often as I am right, and that’s ok. As long as we keep have civil debate on the matter, at least it is being pushed forward. I’m always open to learn more.
That said, I noticed something interesting over the past week in the bowels of gun-related social media that illustrates the problem with protecting digital rights. (Let it be said that I’ve never been, nor ever will be, a lawyer – so take my opinions for what they are)
Late last week while I was at the NRA Annual Meeting, Mossberg started litigation against many manufacturers for infringing on patents that they own for drop-in triggers. You can read all the specifics of the case elsewhere. As I monitored the conversations, they migrated from the kneejerk reactions like “Mossberg doesn’t know anything” and “Mossberg is never going to win” to something more along the lines of “Mossberg owns the rights to the patents and they SHOULD be defending themselves. Good for them. I hope we see more of this.”
While I agree with that sentiment, that Mossberg has every right to litigate against patent infringers, I find it funny to hear the latter statements in this business.
Look through your Facebook or Instagram feeds. Go ahead…I’ll wait…
Take for a moment ALL of the patches that are made and sold that clearly rip off pop-culture, or other corporate logos.
Take for a moment ALL of the internet memes created from celebrity images or movie clips.
Take for a moment ALL of the defamatory and libelous statements made against companies or individuals.
Just because Mossberg’s lawsuit pertains to a physical product does not mean that the same approach can’t or shouldn’t be taken when it comes to photography, artwork, sketches, or music.
Do you think for a moment that the scenarios I point out above are not the same thing? You can fool yourself into thinking a lot of digital manipulation is “fair use” but it’s not. Where do you stand on the issue?
Using someone’s picture, likeness, logo, or music in an attempt to sell a product or promote a brand without express permission is opening yourself up to litigation. Taking someone else’s photo and using it on your business blog or website or Facebook page without payment or permission is not “ok because it is shared on social media” – it is theft. Tossing 15 seconds of your favorite song behind your Instagram videos without paying for a license? Same thing.
There are PLENTY of folks just like me that are making ends meet by creating content. We’d like nothing more than to help your business. Just contact us, or hell, do it yourself. Those thoughts coming out of your head are free. Originality can be a real thing.
You can roll the dice and keep making the “Just Pew It” patch with the Nike logo and think that you’ll never get caught, but once that Cease and Desist letter shows up, you’d better have your affairs in order.
Don’t be a hypocrite and defend one manufacturer for using the legal system and then think it’s bullshit when it hits closer to home.
Do your homework. Be original. Raise the bar.
Matt Stagliano is a photographer first, and firearms / outdoors enthusiast second. His work has appeared in countless magazines and online outlets such as RECOIL, SKILLSET, Guns & Ammo, Concealment, Breach Bang Clear, Ammoland, and others. He spends most of his time running Stonetree Creative, a full service portrait studio in Maine when he is not on assignment as Firelance Media. Learn more about Stonetree online or follow him on Instagram (@stonetreecreative). On Facebook here.