Initially, I was in disbelief for two reasons. I’ve not watched Stranger Things, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. Could it be true that my work has become a part of their product and I should be so honored to be part of it? The images I were seeing did not lie. They were my photos.
Then it turned into a feeling of betrayal. How could they, a large corporate company with day-to-day experience in handling rights-protected materials, use my material without so much as asking me for permission? How did they think they can get away with it? I’ll admit, I’m not a lawyer, but I do have a moral right to copyright over the images I take that does not require any registration. At the least, they have chosen my images because they are somehow special (e.g. well taken, high resolution), and I deserve to be compensated for it.
What’s upsetting is how difficult it was for the artist to be compensated for their work. They went through a ton of hoops. here’s how Netflix finally responded:
First, my sincerest apologies that no one has gotten back to you until now.
Your blog post was brought to my attention so I wanted to reach out and let you know that we’re currently looking into this matter with the creative agency that worked on the product design for the tapes.
Oh…so now that it’s on a public site, you finally get back to them. Bullshit. I’m sick of companies treating us like crap until it becomes public knowledge. Just like Netflix dropping a star on their network after the public hears about things, not before. It’s a shame we have to tweet something to get a response. Companies should want to do right by us w/o taking thing public. I always start publicly. It gets things done because a lot of companies live and breathe by the perception the public has of them.
On to the theft of this artist’s copyright work, Jason Snell offered this:
It’s pretty obvious what happened here. Netflix made a deal with a DVD distributor to sell the disc copies of “Stranger Things.” That distributor probably contracted with an independent designer or design firm to create the box and ancillary material—in this case, cleverly packaged as a VHS tape, fitting the 1980s setting of the show. And that designer searched the internet for photos of VHS tapes, found Gough Lui’s, and downloaded them.
Sure, Netflix the company didn’t commit copyright infringement but they had a part in it by working with a company that does. Every day, someone searches Google Images, finds my photos and steals them. I only find 10% of the copyright infringements committed against my photography and now video. A person who follows me on YouTube sent me a note that someone had stolen my video. YouTube never told me about it. They’re able to hear a song for 2 seconds when a car passes by me in a video and tag me for copyright infringement (ContentID) but when someone steals my entire video and uploads it, they don’t do anything about it. Netflix and YouTube only do something about it when you report it. There are not algorithms in place to protect the little guys when our rights are infringed upon.
Further, the casual Internet user doesn’t think copying a photo from Google Images is illegal. I’d wager everyone has done it and most of them don’t think they did anything wrong.
With the percentage of professional content creators dropping compared to people who just put their content on the web for free w/ a “use it if you want” attitude, nothing is going to change for us