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Author Topic: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist  (Read 11900 times)

Matthew Chan

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Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« on: July 11, 2012, 11:51:56 AM »
Larry Berman, a photographer and graphic artist from Pennsylvania, shares his "success" story about his Masterfile extortion encounter. He credits Oscar's involvement in his story. Ultimately, it seems Steve Pigeon, CEO of Masterfile, got involved long enough and decided to drop the case.

Although I am happy with the outcome for Larry, there is something that doesn't sit right with me on how it sounds especially Steve Pigeon's high-profile involvement at the end.

It sounds like Steve wanted to himself a hero and make a little PR opportunity out of something that should never have happened to begin with.

http://bermangraphics.com/press/masterfile.htm
« Last Edit: July 11, 2012, 12:40:01 PM by Matthew Chan »
I'm a non-lawyer but not legally ignorant either. Under the 1st Amendment, I have the right to post facts & opinions using rhetorical hyperbole, colloquialisms, metaphors, parody, snark, or epithets. Under Section 230 of CDA, I'm only responsible for posts I write, not what others write.

Moe Hacken

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Re: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2012, 12:21:23 PM »
Good for Larry Berman and score yet another Plus One for Oscar beating back the trolls! Here's Steve Pigeon's spin on their failed extortion attempt:

Quote
Steve Pigeon, president of Masterfile contacted me with the following information. "When the facts surrounding your case were brought to my attention on January 4th, I determined that yours was a usage that Masterfile would have permitted without charge in the normal course of business and our Copyright Compliance Officer immediately notified you of this decision. As I am sure you know, copyright infringement on the Internet is a huge issue for owners of intellectual property. Masterfile works diligently to monitor unauthorized usages and ensure that we and our contributing photographers are compensated for all commercial uses of our images. It's a tough part of our business but it's a necessary function of a company that licenses exclusive rights-managed images."

In other words, he told his "compliance team:"

"Drop that one, boys, Oscar Michelen's got the guy's back and next thing ELI's making highly-Google-ranked memes with my face and we look like the bullies we are. Now write me some p.r. doublespeak that makes me look like The Man and find another sucker to troll that doesn't know Michelen, Matthew Chan or ELI."
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Matthew Chan

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Re: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2012, 01:01:54 PM »
I called Larry Berman and we had a pleasant conversation. I was able to do some follow-up questioning and clarification of his case. I disclosed to Larry that I started a forum post about him and his posted story because his story was so unusual. It is unusual, in the fact that his case was acknowledged as dropped and Steve Pigeon got involved.

I also found out that the ending of Larry's article was NOT the intended ending. Steve Pigeon got bent out of shape over Larry's original ending and made it known to Larry via email.

Apparently, Steve felt "entitled" to a "positive" write-up by Larry given how "gracious" Steve was to authorize the dropping of the case. The problem was that Larry should never have gone through all the aggravation to begin with!  Given that Larry had been through a stressful ordeal already, Larry decided to made a quick modification to the last paragraph and put the ordeal behind him.

Before I called Larry, something felt "off" with the ending.  I have mixed feelings in saying that I was correct in my assessment. After all, who could naturally be so gracious after being wrongfully being pursued and accused to begin with? It made no sense to me that Larry would take the time write the article about the ordeal only to "plug" and quote Steve at the very end.

As Larry and I spoke, I explained to Larry that we have never heard of Steve Pigeon himself getting involved in any extortion cases directly.  And certainly if a case was dropped or "let go", it is generally done quietly without fanfare. The case disappears into the night, if you will.

In doing some research on Larry's online work, Larry is prolific in sharing his work, photography, and writings. Can you imagine the PR nightmare if Larry's story had gone public that Masterfile was trying to extort money from a well-known, well-written, and well-established niche photographer? Larry also writes for ShutterBug.

Larry obviously took a stand for himself but behind him was his body of work as a photographer, graphic artist, columnist, blogger, and other credentials. I think it made them think twice and check into Larry's story further. The fact that Steve Pigeon decided to get personally involved with the resolution speaks volumes about Larry's unique situation.

As an addendum to this post, Larry's case started in December 2009 and ended on January 4, 2010. It was handled by John MacDougal before it was escalated to Steve Pigeon.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2012, 01:12:58 PM by Matthew Chan »
I'm a non-lawyer but not legally ignorant either. Under the 1st Amendment, I have the right to post facts & opinions using rhetorical hyperbole, colloquialisms, metaphors, parody, snark, or epithets. Under Section 230 of CDA, I'm only responsible for posts I write, not what others write.

SoylentGreen

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Re: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2012, 01:40:56 PM »
Steve Pigeon does get involved a bit more that people think.
Masterfile files the greatest number of lawsuits in the industry, and Mr Pigeon usually provides and affidavit in each actual lawsuit.

I personally doubt that legal cases are "escalated" to Mr Pigeon, though.  I don't see how he'd have any more influence on an alleged infringer than somebody else.
I agree that this was a bit of PR opportunity for him, a la "look how we work with our industry to solve problems".

Mr Pigeon also stated that his organization never dropped a case like this in the past.
This isn't true; some people simply won't pay and MF can't sue everybody, nor do they always win when they sue.
I understand that why they would want to give the impression that they always get their quarry.

I have no doubt that McDougall was fed up with the place by the time that he left MF, though.
I kind of feel sorry for him going to Corus... their salaries are low IMHO.

S.G.

« Last Edit: July 11, 2012, 01:42:41 PM by SoylentGreen »

lucia

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Re: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2012, 07:06:02 PM »
As far as I can tell, once Masterfile figured out that if they sued, they would lose in court and the photographer knew this was so and had lined up an attorney who knew how to present the proper legal argument in court, they dropped the case.   There is nothing particularly gracious about their ultimately dropping the case. They dropped it because they had no case and they also knew that the person they were threatening to sue knew they had no case.

I'll pseculate it was only when they heard the name of the attorney (or even learned an attorney was lined up) that anyone bothered to look at the details of the case. 

SoylentGreen

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Re: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2012, 07:23:25 PM »
Lucia makes a good point.
This has always been mostly about bullying people that won't fight back.

S.G.


Jerry Witt (mcfilms)

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Re: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2012, 12:46:07 PM »
This part caught my eye:

New York attorney, Oscar Michelen, "told me that in no way was I to pay Masterfile any money. He said that they didn't have a case and he would be willing to represent me at a reduced rate, but to wait to see how the case developed before sending him any money."

Very nice and very classy. Sort of the antithesis of the troll-lawyers that are out just for a quick buck.

Oscar's my hero of the day today.
Although I may be a super-genius, I am not a lawyer. So take my scribblings for what they are worth and get a real lawyer for real legal advice. But if you want media and design advice, please visit Motion City at http://motioncity.com.

Greg Troy (KeepFighting)

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Re: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2012, 01:21:02 PM »
Agreed, they don't come much better than Oscar! :)

This part caught my eye:

New York attorney, Oscar Michelen, "told me that in no way was I to pay Masterfile any money. He said that they didn't have a case and he would be willing to represent me at a reduced rate, but to wait to see how the case developed before sending him any money."

Very nice and very classy. Sort of the antithesis of the troll-lawyers that are out just for a quick buck.

Oscar's my hero of the day today.
Every situation is unique, any advice or opinions I offer are given for your consideration only. You must decide what is best for you and your particular situation. I am not a lawyer and do not offer legal advice.

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SoylentGreen

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Re: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2012, 01:36:53 PM »
MF's case was so weak that Oscar wouldn't take the poor guy's money.

How long before "kindly grandpa Steve Pigeon" starts posting on here, trying to help the poor infringers? lol

S.G.


« Last Edit: July 12, 2012, 01:40:29 PM by SoylentGreen »

Oscar Michelen

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Re: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2012, 05:19:18 PM »
Thanks for all the kinds word.  I do regularly tell folks that if they have one or two images they are better off putting what they would pay me into a settlement offer and trying to make MF go away for a reasonable sum. 
BTW, wait till you see the news in my next forum topic, let's just say I am not likely to  receive a Christmas card from MF this year!   

Greg Troy (KeepFighting)

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Re: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2012, 05:44:15 PM »
It's nice to see you back again Oscar! I'm looking forward to seeing your posting about MasterFile! :D

Thanks for all the kinds word.  I do regularly tell folks that if they have one or two images they are better off putting what they would pay me into a settlement offer and trying to make MF go away for a reasonable sum. 
BTW, wait till you see the news in my next forum topic, let's just say I am not likely to  receive a Christmas card from MF this year!   
Every situation is unique, any advice or opinions I offer are given for your consideration only. You must decide what is best for you and your particular situation. I am not a lawyer and do not offer legal advice.

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Matthew Chan

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Re: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2012, 08:24:27 PM »
We really need to stop using MF as initials for Masterfile.  When I see MF, I inevitably think of a different term.  LOL.

Regarding "grandpa" Steve Pigeon, he is stuck in a business that its revenues are extortion-based not sales-based. After the failed sale of Masterfile, Steve gets to keep teaching his younglings how to keep the extortion money coming in.

As Oscar mentioned, Oscar is not likely going to be one of Steve's favorite people after the embarrassing and expensive trouncing Oscar did to so many Masterfile supporters on the Chaga case.
I'm a non-lawyer but not legally ignorant either. Under the 1st Amendment, I have the right to post facts & opinions using rhetorical hyperbole, colloquialisms, metaphors, parody, snark, or epithets. Under Section 230 of CDA, I'm only responsible for posts I write, not what others write.

Jerry Witt (mcfilms)

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Re: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2012, 11:18:34 AM »
We really need to stop using MF as initials for Masterfile.  When I see MF, I inevitably think of a different term.  LOL.

I rather think the MF designation is appropriate for Masterfile. When I think of the people involved in their extortion racket I consider them all to be MF-ers.

I only wish Getty Images had more "colorful" initials.
Although I may be a super-genius, I am not a lawyer. So take my scribblings for what they are worth and get a real lawyer for real legal advice. But if you want media and design advice, please visit Motion City at http://motioncity.com.

Mulligan

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Re: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2012, 11:28:19 AM »
We really need to stop using MF as initials for Masterfile.  When I see MF, I inevitably think of a different term.  LOL.

I rather think the MF designation is appropriate for Masterfile. When I think of the people involved in their extortion racket I consider them all to be MF-ers.

I only wish Getty Images had more "colorful" initials.

Jerry, remember that G.I. also abbreviates "G.I. Tract" in many minds.

The G.I. Tract, of course, refers to the huge cellular tube our bodies use to turn food into poop.

Getty Images does something similar with its payment extraction scheme, IMHO.

Jerry Witt (mcfilms)

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Re: Masterfile Drops Case Against Photographer/Graphic Artist
« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2012, 11:38:09 AM »
Haha. Good point.
Although I may be a super-genius, I am not a lawyer. So take my scribblings for what they are worth and get a real lawyer for real legal advice. But if you want media and design advice, please visit Motion City at http://motioncity.com.

 

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