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Pat Pope V Garbage, Or Artists Can't Agree On Art

Here's probably the most bizarre internet spat ever. A photographer public shaming a band for asking to re-use an image that the band had already paid for, with the band responding in kind.

Pat Pope is a photographer who apparently works in the music business, taking photos of artists, presumably for album covers, publicity material and the like. One of the artists he's worked with in the past was Garbage. The band is something of a shadow of its previous success, yet continues to work, publishing on its own label. One of the ways in which it sought to monetise its efforts was through the release of a book documenting its history on the 20th anniversary of its formation.

Garbage apparently requested permission to re-use an image it had previously commissioned in the book. Pope's response was to post a diatribe on Facebook and his personal blog calling out the band for wanting to use his art without payment. The letter has been widely shared.

Garbage responded in kind, with a response posted on the band's Facebook page. In the letter Garbage points out that it had already paid for the whole photoshoot when it occurred. Both letters can be viewed in full here.

So here's the question: is Pope right, does Garbage's request to use a photo from the shoot trigger another payment? Or does the fact that the shoot was paid for by the band give them license to use the photos as they see fit.

In the real world, if you undertake a piece of work whilst in the employ of somebody, or under a contract to do so, the work created becomes the property of the employer. As a result I think that having paid for the shoot, Garbage have ownership of the photos taken as part of the shoot. If anything else were true then I see no reason why anybody would ever contract with a photographer again.

Pope has been guilty of bad manners - certainly if someone were to reply to a personal letter by posting an open reply to their Facebook account I would be less than impressed. He's also managed a passable impression of a skin-flint, screwing every penny from a piece of work that's already been paid for. In that respect he is morally wrong, even if the contract in place may mean that he is legally in the right. (I'm not convinced that's the case, mind).

Pope has refused to reply to, or comment on, the Garbage response, probably realising that he's screwed his reputation with his behaviour. Best advice I can offer to him would be to hold his hands up, admit that he's in the wrong and apologise to the band. Its unlikely to repair their relationship, but it might at least repair his reputation. A little bit, anyway.

Photo: Stig Nygard, Copenhagen, Denmark



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