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Let me play a sad song for you on the world’s smallest violin…

October 29, 2021, 9:36 AM

Do you remember about a month or so ago, when I made that Journal entry about Jeremy Jones, the guy who used several of my photos in an infringing manner, and lost his Twitter account for it?  He recently came back to badger me via Messenger one more time, and this time, unlike the silence that I had been giving him after my first response where I said that the matter was already resolved, I let him have it.  I told him that his losing his Twitter account is not my problem, that calling my parents in search of me was completely out of line, and I included the link to the earlier Journal entry.

I got a rather long-winded response to that message, and the sense that I got was that he had no real argument, and this was mostly an attempt to verbally lick his wounds in order to make himself feel better after being told in a definitive manner that I wasn’t playing:

Hey Ben,

Appreciate the response.  I respect your decision, didn’t really know that you felt that way but I understand now.  If you’re open to it, I’d like to explain how I feel about this situation now.

I think in the future you should try to be more compassionate and really understand what’s going on before writing me off because the way that you describe some of these things in the article are simply not true.  For instance, this happens to be my first rodeo because the claims that people made would goto a specific email and those emails have all been deleted.  So because of that I wasn’t able to be notified about any claims made against my account nor have the proper way to get in contact.  On top of that I had ZERO KNOWLEDGE that using other people images was even an issue and I’m sure that’s hard for you to believe because you’re in the photography industry but it’s 100% true and is also 100% my fault for not knowing.  Secondly, it does mean this much to me.. it took me time to get in contact with you because I don’t have the emails associated with the claims, I found yours on a site called lumendatabase.org and that’s how I reached out.  I’m sure you don’t care about this stuff but in no way was I malicious in my intent to use your photos if anything I used your photos because they were a great way to represent what we were posting about at the time.  I would normally read a story, goto google, save a picture and post it not even knowing what I was doing.  Thirdly, I can’t believe that you would assume that me offering to help you in return isn’t genuine.  I’m not even sure how you’d come to that conclusion.  I was always taught to bring something to the table when asking and I was simply doing that in a very genuine way.  I had plans and ways that I could help for the mishap.  But that’s neither here no there, I respect your decision and I will no longer contact you.  Thanks for your time.

After this, I blocked him on Messenger, since there’s really nothing else that needs to be said on his part, so there’s no point in giving him the forum.  In any case, what I took from this response was that he was confirming that I was right in viewing him the way that I did, and that it would have probably been better for him to have remained silent and been thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.  I also got the sense that he was trying to excuse his own behavior, and project his upset over his poor practices that led to his losing his Twitter account onto me, and thus trying to make what was a problem of his own doing into mine.  Sounds like someone who wants to be treated like an adult, but then when someone actually treats them like an adult, they don’t like it, and start kicking and screaming over it.  I see it over and over and over again.

One of the ways that he tried to excuse his behavior was when he said, “For instance, this happens to be my first rodeo because the claims that people made would goto a specific email and those emails have all been deleted.  So because of that I wasn’t able to be notified about any claims made against my account nor have the proper way to get in contact.”  My question is, whose responsibility is it to ensure that one’s email address is correct on a social media account?  Answer is, it’s the owner of the account that is responsible for such things.  So if Jones did not maintain a current email address on file with Twitter, of course, he would not have gotten the communications about his various copyright strikes.  If he had kept his email address up to date like he should have done all along, he would have received immediate notification of the infringements as they happened, and he would have been able to take corrective action before it got to the point of his account’s being suspended.  But he chose not to keep the email that he had on file up to date, so he remained in the dark until it was too late.  He also said, “it took me time to get in contact with you because I don’t have the emails associated with the claims, I found yours on a site called lumendatabase.org and that’s how I reached out.”  Again, if he had kept his email address up to date with Twitter, he would have gotten all of that information as it happened, but since he didn’t do that, I can’t help him with that.  I was surprised that he was able to get my email address out of Lumen, though.  I’ve gone in there to see what turns up, and I can’t even get my email address out of it.

Then there’s the part where he said, “On top of that I had ZERO KNOWLEDGE that using other people images was even an issue and I’m sure that’s hard for you to believe because you’re in the photography industry but it’s 100% true and is also 100% my fault for not knowing.”  There is one bit of truth in all of this: it is indeed 100% his fault for not knowing that it’s not okay to use images that you don’t have permission to use.  The principle of Ignorantia juris non excusat, which roughly translates to, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” applies here.  Likewise, it is your own responsibility to ensure that you are completely following the rules that the copyright holder has set regarding downstream usage, whether that is Creative Commons or otherwise (they were all Creative Commons in his case).  Recall that the death metal band Barbiturate spent good money, ostensibly to promote their band, on a designer who used a photo that they did not have the rights to use, and then the band subsequently lost the photo because they didn’t follow the license.  If it tells you anything, that photo, as modified for Barbiturate, has now been on Schumin Web as a testament to their lack of due diligence for far longer than it ever was in service for them to promote their band.  The same applies for Jones’ use of my photos.  If you take the time to do your homework and follow the terms as provided, you will be fine.

I’m also amused about the idea that he used my photos because they were a great way to represent what they were posting about.  He said, “I’m sure you don’t care about this stuff but in no way was I malicious in my intent to use your photos if anything I used your photos because they were a great way to represent what we were posting about at the time.”  It’s as if he’s doing me a favor or something by stealing my photos?  If they’re so great, then do the right thing and follow the terms of the license as provided, or, if that’s not satisfactory, negotiate your own with me.  And then he admitted that he was being irresponsible when he said, “I would normally read a story, goto google, save a picture and post it not even knowing what I was doing.”  Yep.  That’s what he did, all right.

There’s also the allegation that I scoffed at his idea to pay for use of the photos.  There, he said, “Thirdly, I can’t believe that you would assume that me offering to help you in return isn’t genuine.  I’m not even sure how you’d come to that conclusion.  I was always taught to bring something to the table when asking and I was simply doing that in a very genuine way.  I had plans and ways that I could help for the mishap.”  The best that I can come up with for that is this passage from the first post: “For a habitual offender like Jones, I had no reason to think that he wouldn’t go right back to stealing more photos and getting nailed again, so I wasn’t inclined to bail him out by any means.”  In any case, once someone has demonstrated that they’re willing to use content in an unauthorized manner like that, I’m not inclined to trust them too much.

It reminds me of a guy named Mike Chalmers, who ran a website called The West Virginia Independent Observer.  That was handled by Pixsy, and unfortunately, they were not able to bring that case to a successful resolution (it happens – you win some, you lose some).  What made Chalmers’ case stand out, though, was when he circumvented Pixsy and messaged me about it directly.  In his message, rather than take responsibility for the mistake as the entity who is ultimately in charge (i.e. the buck stops here), he blamed his intern, telling me that he fired the intern, and trying to explain it away to me by calling it, “It was a dumb mistake by a kid who now knows much better.”  No acceptance of responsibility.  And then he went on to say, “And if you’re so inclined, perhaps after the dust settles, we could do some work together.  I like your work and you’re relatively local and I often need specific shots for the stuff we cover.”  Um, about that.  I wouldn’t want to work for someone who won’t pay when they were already using my photo.  What gives me any reason to think that they would pay me anywhere near what I’m worth when (A) the reason that we knew who we each were in the first place was because of a copyright infringement case, and (B) when the guy refused to pay when he was caught?  Exactly – I’ve been given no reason to think that, especially when he tried to blame the intern rather than taking responsibility for it like an adult when it was his publication.

All in all, when it comes to Jeremy Jones, I hope that he learned his lesson, even if he refuses to admit as much.  But I have my doubts.  In any case, after reading that sob story of his, I’m inclined to play a sad song for him on the world’s smallest violin and then go on with things.  It’s not my responsibility to make sure that he learns how to respect copyrights, but if he doesn’t learn his lesson from this, he will get nailed over and over again.