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Thread: How the stolen photo story played out

  1. #1
    Sprinkles are for winners dougdirt's Avatar
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    How the stolen photo story played out

    Buckle up and get your reading glasses ready. If anyone actually makes it through this, you're awesome. If not, I understand. It's long, and probably very stupid to you. I get that.

    I said that I would share this story on here once I got paid, and that eventually happened, so here we are.

    This story actually starts out nearly 19 months ago. Baseball Prospectus used a photo of mine, without permission, in one of their articles online. I contacted their customer support and was put in touch with "the guy" who handles that kind of stuff for them. He apologized and the photo was taken down, but I requested to be compensated for it. Baseball Prospectus is a for profit enterprise and they charge money for access to their content, so I expect to be compensated for my contributions to their content. We set up a time a few days down the road for a phone call to discuss it. I missed the first call. I called back the next day and didn't get an answer. At the time I was busy and just decided, you know what, it's not worth the time and hassle right now. And I let it go. They removed the photo.... it was just something that wasn't worth dealing with at the time.

    Fastforward from there, or rewind from today, to September 6th. Someone on twitter congratulated me for being big time, and tweeted me the baseball prospectus tweet that was using my photo, along with the link to their story that was also using my photo. I did not give them permission to use that photo at all. So I quote tweeted them with "hey baseball prospectus, you know you can't just use photos and say "credit to" without asking, right?", then followed it up with "this is now the second time that I've noticed you've done this with my work. We need to talk."

    Probably 30-45 minutes later the tweet was deleted, and my photo was removed from their site. Not good enough this time. They apologized via twitter and said that it wouldn't happen again, to which I replied "that's what was said the last time this happened, and here we are". A few hours later I got an email from a writer at Baseball Prospectus, again apologizing for it and asking how they could make it better. I said that I still had "the guys" email, and had emailed him earlier, but hadn't heard back yet - so I wasn't sure if he was still with them. I was told that he was. It had only been a few hours, so I wasn't worried that I hadn't heard back yet.

    It took four days to get a response back from "the guy". He asked if the photo was on the home page or within the article. I replied that I wasn't sure if it was on the home page or not, but it was in the article and used on all of their social media platforms. I noted that the writer who had contacted me had taken it down.

    "Okay good, I'm glad to hear (name redacted) was involved and handled it quickly. He's the right person to contact as he can determine who posted it and speak to them. Thanks. "

    I responded later that day that the last time this happened I decided to let it go in terms of asking to be compensated for it. This time I'm going to request being paid for the usage. My usage rate is $65.

    That was on Monday September 10th. On Friday I had still not heard back from "the guy". So I emailed him back with a simple: (name redacted), it's been four days since I last heard back.

    That was September 14th. On September 18th I still had not gotten a response. That's when I started twitter shaming them, so to speak. I began to quote tweet my original "you guys stole my photo" tweet, and counting how many days it had been since they had responded to me. After a few days of that, another BP writer contacted me via email. He saw the tweets and just wanted to get more details on what happened and wanted to see things made right. So I gave him the details of what happened. Another two days later I got an email from another person at BP who will also remain nameless, kind of asking what was going on. Later in the same email he offered to pay me out of his own pocket if I was comfortable with that (he did not know how much money I was asking for - what if I was asking for $500?).

    I responded to him and told him that I didn't want to take money from him or anyone else at the site. And that "the guy" had simply stopped responding to me, which is why I began the "twitter shaming" campaign, hoping that someone would see it and email him with a "hey, why aren't you responding to this situation" kind of thing.

    For the second time in three days, someone at BP told me that "the guy" probably wouldn't respond, and that it was kind of par for the course. He again offered to pay me out of his pocked if I felt wronged and should be compensated, that it was good enough for him. Just let him know a fair amount and he'd send me payment.

    I replied this this:
    (Name redacted), I appreciate the offer. I really do. But I'm going to pass on it. I'm going to email "the guy" once again and see what happens. I will give him a few days to get back to me before deciding what my next move will be if he doesn't. Thanks again.

    So, I emailed "the guy" again, with this:
    (name redacted),
    It's now been two weeks since you last responded to any of my emails about compensation for BP using my photo without authorization.

    As stated in my previous email, my rate is $65. That is well below market value for the use of a photo, much less the unauthorized use of a photo. I will be expecting a response before the end of the week. Until then I will suspend my campaign of publicly stating how long it's been since BP has gone without responding to my request for compensation. However, if I do not hear back by then, I will once again go that route and then some. I would prefer to not have to get lawyers involved over something so small, and I'm sure your bosses wouldn't be thrilled about having to deal with it either over a small check. But if it has to come to that, well, I won't be closing that door.

    Let me know if you need an invoice from me for this, or if you just need to know who to make the check out to and where to send it.


    That email was sent on September 24th and went unanswered. So on the 28th, I went back to the tweeting campaign. Shortly after my tweet that night, the guy who had been offering to pay me out of his pocket sent me this email:

    I gotta say, you refusing my offer of payment and then continuing to publicly call BP out seems not great. If the goal is to be compensated, I offered multiple times. If the goal is to repeatedly call out a site for making a mistake, fixing that mistake quickly, and apologizing for it, then I'm not sure what we can really do in that regard?

    I replied rather quickly with this, explaining where I was coming from:

    It comes down to this for me: You paying me does not let the company itself understand that anything was done improperly. It doesn't put anything on the ledger, anywhere, that "we've done this before" and that if they just continue to ignore things like this in the future that maybe it'll just disappear because they didn't have to write me a check. Maybe it's just me thinking that having the company themselves write a check out will at least get it on the radar that there needs to be better training for the contributors there, and that simply ignoring theft will make it go away as if it never happened.

    Mistakes happen. Which is why I let it go last year when it did happen. But at some point there needs to be some sort of acceptance from the actual company. Taking your money does not do that. I appreciate the offer. Really, I do. But taking it isn't going to chance anything there. And maybe it won't when I get them to write me a check, either. But it seems far more likely that them having to come off of the money would lead to them at least considering some sort of way to go about trying to fix this from the top, than them literally not knowing anything happened because another employee decided to pay for something out of pocket and it just went away.


    I then sent another email about three minutes later saying if he would like to shoot "the guy" an email and tell him to respond and take care of it, feel free. But until this is resolved with him, and or the company itself, I'm just not going to let it go. This isn't just about the payment. It's about fixing a recurring issue, too.

    That person then responded with this one:

    The person who used your photo is a part-time employee who had been working with us for less than a month. He made a mistake and it was corrected within minutes. Literally, within a half-hour the photo was removed, the tweet was deleted, and we apologized. You seem to have this notion of BP as some huge company, which I assure you is very much not the case.

    You're free to do whatever you want, obviously, But you refused compensation from a BP employee and now you're making a daily public thing out of this because the offer of compensation doesn't meet the standard of what you'd prefer. Clearly we have different points of view of this, but I'm sort of baffled as to how this is justified.


    Another email was then sent to me a few minutes later from him, in response to the second one I had just recently sent:

    "the guy" is aware of it. He's also not on Twitter. The people who are on Twitter are the employees, like me,, from whom you've refused payment and rejected apologies.

    This was the final email exchanged between me and the writer at BP who wanted to pay me out of his own pocket, as he never responded to this:

    (name redacted), I'm in the business. I don't have some idea that BP is raking in millions of dollars. But they are certainly raking in enough to write me a check for two digits for theft of my work, erroneously or not. The photo was up on the site and the tweet were up for about 2 hours before I was notified. In the social media world, that's more than the life-cycle of the tweet. Of course, I don't think that matters all that much to the fact that it was used without permission.

    The fact that "the guy" IS aware of it, and still isn't responding, is exactly why BP is going to continue to be put out there daily, in public. It's literally the only way I've got to try and get him to respond short of driving 95 minutes up the highway to the Baseball Prospectus office and asking to speak with someone in person. Whether that's getting you or the social media person (maybe that's you), or someone else that works there to email him/call him and say "dude, just take care of this" because I continue to do this - it's all I've got right now short of going to a lawyer over a $65 check. It's a petty way for "the guy", on the behalf of BP, to go about business.

    Again, I really do appreciate you reaching out and offering the compensation. But as I explained in the previous email - that doesn't go about changing the way in which BP the company would possibly go about fixing what has been a recurring issue with my specific work, and that makes me wonder if it's been happening to others and either I simply haven't noticed it or they haven't and so no one made anything of it. I see it too frequently to let multiple instances go.


    That was Friday the 28th. That weekend I was able to find the phone number of "the guy" from our emails a year before. That Monday morning I called his office where he's an attorney. I was on hold for a while before a secretary picked up and asked about my case information, which was weird to try and explain to her what I was actually calling about, but we eventually got it down to copyright infringement and it was related to Baseball Prospectus and not an actual case. I was placed back on hold. Ten minutes later the secretary picked up and told me that the lawyer was not available right now but would call me back.

    That night I got an email from him.

    (name redacted) said he attempted to pay you from BP but it didn't work or did it?

    So I replied back:

    (name redacted) offered to pay me out of his own pocket. I politely declined and explained that I expect the company, not an employee of the company who isn't doing so on their behalf to handle this.

    12 hours later I sent back this:
    Can we just take care of all of this? That this has been going on for nearly a month now and this still isn't resolved is a bit silly.

    And a few hours later he asked for my address. I sent it and asked what the timeline would be for payment. No response for two weeks. So I followed up again with "Just following up - what is the timeline here?"

    I was paid shortly thereafter.

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  4. #2
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    Re: How the stolen photo story played out

    Why didn't you try to work out a deal where BP could regularly use your photos for their stories? Seemed like there was a potential business relationship there for you. Great to get the 65, but it seems like it would have been even better to get some recurring revenue. They obviously like your work.

  5. #3
    Viva la Rolen kaldaniels's Avatar
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    Re: How the stolen photo story played out

    I’m glad you got paid.

    I was worried they had you behind the eight ball after they said “you refused payment from a BP employee.”

  6. #4
    Sprinkles are for winners dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: How the stolen photo story played out

    Quote Originally Posted by Boston Red View Post
    Why didn't you try to work out a deal where BP could regularly use your photos for their stories? Seemed like there was a potential business relationship there for you. Great to get the 65, but it seems like it would have been even better to get some recurring revenue. They obviously like your work.
    Because they aren't going to go for it. Plus, for reasons like this, and some others that I won't get into, I'm pretty much anti-Baseball Prospectus anything other than some of the people that work there.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by kaldaniels View Post
    I’m glad you got paid.

    I was worried they had you behind the eight ball after they said “you refused payment from a BP employee.”
    Honestly, when I got that email, the first thing that went through my mind was "this is an attempt to trick you into saying you declined payment". I chose my words very carefully in response to that.

  7. #5
    Where's my chair? REDREAD's Avatar
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    Re: How the stolen photo story played out

    good job.Glad you stood up for what was right and got paid.

    Nice to see a happy ending to a story like this.
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  8. #6
    Moderator JaxRed's Avatar
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    Re: How the stolen photo story played out

    Sorry. I don't think it was a good outcome for you. I think it's pyrrhic victory. Trust me the story is being told periodically by the other side to other baseball people and it's being told as "this guy was a jerk, I wouldn't deal with him if I were you".

    There were times to draw a line in the sand and this was not one of them. I agree with Boston, you should have tried to turn a bad situation into an opportunity.
    The lowest acceptable payroll amount for ownership to show they are not greedy pigs is 15 million more than they are currently paying. No matter what that currently is.

  9. #7
    Member Z-Fly's Avatar
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    Re: How the stolen photo story played out

    Nice work Doug. You are correct. If you didn't raise a stink, they wouldn't have changed their ways.
    WHEN DOES IT STOP!?!?

  10. #8
    Sprinkles are for winners dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: How the stolen photo story played out

    Quote Originally Posted by JaxRed View Post
    Sorry. I don't think it was a good outcome for you. I think it's pyrrhic victory. Trust me the story is being told periodically by the other side to other baseball people and it's being told as "this guy was a jerk, I wouldn't deal with him if I were you".

    There were times to draw a line in the sand and this was not one of them. I agree with Boston, you should have tried to turn a bad situation into an opportunity.
    I know more than a fair share of people who have written at Baseball Prospectus. I know more than a few people that either, never got paid, or never got paid anything close to what they were promised. That company is one that uses people that aren't at the very top of the food chain. They are a fancier version of every other blog network who takes advantage of "exposure" in order to create content to sell on the absolute cheapest way possible because they can point to a few examples of their guys getting great jobs in baseball - jobs that those people would have gotten anyways because teams aren't hiring them because they were at baseball prospectus, teams were hiring them because of what they were capable of doing. And teams would have found them wherever else they were doing their work, too. All that is to say, no, there is no chance that I was going to be able to work out any sort of situation into an opportunity to work with or for them. Not that I'd want to - I don't respect their business for a second. I don't like how they, as a company, do things. Heck, when Major League Baseball did this - granted they absolutely took care of me in a much quicker fashion, easily admitted their mistake, owned it, and paid a much higher rate than BP did - they also dropped in the "we'll add you to our register of photographers to check with if we need photos of players - can you list the teams/leagues you cover?". I provided a list that included 30+ teams. That was probably 5-6 years ago? I've literally never gotten one email from them looking for a photo.

    Got to ask, though: At what point do you draw a line in the sand? After the 5th time they steal from you? The 10th?

    I'll take the jerk tagline. Heck, I can be an actual jerk at times (see my twitter feed for some examples). But I'll especially take it if it's on the back of "well, our company stole from him and he didn't like it and asked to be paid for the work he did that we took", even if the other side never hears that part of the story. When you let people keep doing this, they keep doing this. I have a photographer friend on facebook who every so often comes to me to complain that the local minor league team he goes and shoots photos of winds up using his photos on their website. And then they show up inthe paper sometimes (because the team sends the newspaper those photos). And every time I tell him he needs to go to the team and tell them they aren't allowed to just use his photos and to give them a bill. He, for YEARS, has just continued to let it happen. Earlier this year the team took it to another level. They began to take his photos and print them out and sell them in their team store. While this example is a bit extreme, things like this do happen, and when people don't stand up and fight back for their rights, it's going to keep happening. And it might just be taken to the next level, too.

  11. #9
    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: How the stolen photo story played out

    I admire your perseverance, Doug. Most people would have just accepted the payment from the one employee but it's good to see that you got what you were looking for in the first place.
    Quote Originally Posted by Raisor View Post
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    Chip is right

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  13. #10
    Kmac5 KoryMac5's Avatar
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    Re: How the stolen photo story played out

    Doug does great work and I use his photos all the time...JK

    However I do agree with Jax a bit in that relationships matter in this business or others...how you react in certain situations goes a long way down the road towards future opportunities. Its a balancing act between being a doormat and being overly assertive and you have to be able to find that sweet spot.
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  14. #11
    They call me "chef"
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    Re: How the stolen photo story played out

    Hmmm. Turning the other cheek as a good faith gesture to potentially earn paid work from a company who have already been presented with that option but instead preferred to steal your content (as well as do similar shady stuff to lower level writers/photogaphers) is one way to proceed.

    IMO, the more realistic scenario is that BP is never going to pay Doug or people like Doug unless they absolutely have to OR if/when Doug advances to a place in his own career where a check and credits from BP isn't much wanted. Even in-demand people who make companies excess profit are sometimes lowballed and stiffed. I think Doug is more likely to get paid for a needed photo, if that time comes, now that he raised his stink than if he had not said anything and let it go.

    Also, Doug can accept the theft and play nice and still just as easily get black balled and called a jerk. For every little guy who lets a company exploit them and gets rewarded for the loyalty, there is a line of little guys who gladly got taken advantage of and still are considered hard to work with and non-hireable. At a certain point, as he says, someone has to break from that expectation of surrender/submission out of desperate hope that the company will magically be decent and reward them for it. Did Doug probably spend way more of his own time on this than anyone else involved? Is it easy for BP to dismiss the entire situation still? Probably yes on both. But, at least, he didn't make it the easiest option for them.

    Good work, Doug.
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    Re: How the stolen photo story played out

    I wouldn't have suggested forgoing payment on this photo. I just might have suggested a bit of a different tone at the start. "Not only am I happy for you to use that photo for $65, but I'd be THRILLED for you to use future photos for $65/per, too.

  17. #13
    Sprinkles are for winners dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: How the stolen photo story played out

    Quote Originally Posted by Boston Red View Post
    I wouldn't have suggested forgoing payment on this photo. I just might have suggested a bit of a different tone at the start. "Not only am I happy for you to use that photo for $65, but I'd be THRILLED for you to use future photos for $65/per, too.
    If I offered them photos for $10 a pop they wouldn't have paid it. I know how they do business.

  18. #14
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    Re: How the stolen photo story played out

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    If I offered them photos for $10 a pop they wouldn't have paid it. I know how they do business.
    I hear you. But they eventually paid $65. Just thought you might be able to prime the pump for some future $65 checks.

  19. #15
    Member medford's Avatar
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    Re: How the stolen photo story played out

    Here's my general rule of thumb.... If it takes you a month and all that hassle to get a $65 check out of a company for something they admitted fault in, then the odds of an agreeable, long term working relationship is going to be very small. Doug more or less confirmed that belief with subsequent posts. In an ideal world, that would be great for Doug, but in an ideal world, writing a $65 check to correct a wrong should happen in less than a week.

    Sounds like BP has cash flow problems; its a very niche industry with a decent amount of "free" information out there. Very few care about any baseball prospect, even fewer care about the prospects outside of their favorite major league team.
    Posting in the clutch since twenty ought two.


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