Where It’s OK to Steal Photos But Not Music

Have you heard of the latest reincarnation of the music site Yeah, me neither, but according to their site Lala is a hub for you to listen to “any song or album once in full for free…Add the web song (unlimited online plays) for 10 cents, or get the MP3 download for 70 cents more.”

According to an EMI press release, they have signed agreements with all the major record labels (EMI Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group) in addition to 170,000+ independent record companies to license the music on the site. In addition to that, according to The Associated Press the site is backed by some BIG money: $35 million in venture capital to be exact, coming from the pockets of Bain Capital LLC, Ignition Partners, and Warner Music Group Corp.

So it’s a cash-flush site that aims to please corporate and independent music entities by allowing people to pay for the music they want to listen to on the internet–and (hopefully) some of that money gets put in the pockets of the artists who create these works.

While Lala seems to be very concerned with the rights of musicians and big corporations, they clearly do not have the same amount of care for the rights of photographers. Yesterday (one day after Lala had their relaunch) it was brought to my attention that a bunch of concert photographers recently discovered that their copyrighted work was being used on the Lala artists page without their permission. I was included in this bunch, as shown above with my Ryan Adams picture (natch).

It seems as though the Lala team had searched through Flickr, downloaded, resized, and cropped photos they liked and decided to re-upload the newly altered images and host them on their own site for the purpose of adding artwork to their artist pages–without contacting most of the photographers whose work they were lifting. Irregardless of the fact that almost all the photos they snatched were NOT marked as Creative Commons allowing commercial usage. So if this is the case, that means countless numbers of artist photos you see on their site ( on landing pages and thumbnails all over site) are actually STOLEN PROPERTY.

Was there no budget for paying for photos despite that $35 million VC money?

Lala has not only altered people’s images (and in many cases, cutting out their watermarks) and re-uploaded them to their site, but they have not even credited the individual photographers–they have opted to simply credit all photos to the VERY PROLIFIC artist named… They have also hyperlinked the “Source:” photo credit back to the ORIGINAL image on Flickr as some sort of misconceived props to the people they lifted from, when really it’s just insult to injury to the photographers.

Needless to say, photographers who have caught their work being used are FUMING mad and have been individually contacting the Lala team. Their complaints have already induced some initial changes, Lala has now included a “Report this image” link listed directly next to the Flickr photo credit.

Another stolen pic, this time The Fratellis

But what they need to do is STOP STEALING IMAGES RIGHT OFF THE BAT. They should contact the photographers whose works they are interested in using and negotiate a licensing fee, as I’m SURE they did with all those record labels. They should also remove all infringed images from their site IMMEDIATELY, not wait until someone has time to click through the thousands of pages on their site to discover exactly which pictures have been swiped. As flattering as it is to have one’s photos displayed on a site, in this case most photographers would rather be compensated than receive vague promotion.

I know there is a saying accredited to Grace Hopper, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission,” but why take that risk when your wrongdoing can be so easily exposed? Please tell us why,

UPDATE (4:23PM): Looks as though someone has hit the panic button. Now instead of an artist image at the top of the page there is a giant black box:

Published by Laura

I run The Modern

9 replies on “ Where It’s OK to Steal Photos But Not Music”

  1. that’s awful and unfair!

    i hope you all get some sort of restitution.

    best week ever’s blog stole one of my concert pictures over the summer, cropped out my watermark and posted it without my permission. i was angry and sad. your situation is exponentially bigger and sucky-er, so i can’t imagine how you feel. i wish there was a better source of information about what digital media copyrights mean and how you’re protected and what to do if you feel that your work has been infringed upon.

    booo lala! boooo!

  2. One of Andrew Kendall’s photos of Arctic Monkeys was on the front page of MySpace yesterday. I think he just laughed about rather than calling the lawyers. The big corporations do rather take the piss when it comes to photographs. But doesn’t everyone?

  3. i agree with your post 100000000%.
    flickr is a terrific site, but the thing that is bad about it is that it makes it easy for photos to get lifted. maybe there could be some sort of option on flickr which would make it impossible to download/copy photos unless the photographer gives permission.
    it is NOT COOL to lift photos without permission. it’s called stealing, folks.

  4. So is there any business connection between lala and flickr? Is one owned by the other?
    It’s bad to read such a thing has happened, I’m not sure what the t&cs are of flickr for photos being reused but come on atleast have the decency to ask permission first. Lazy, lazy, lazy to write the least.
    With my site, I either use images given to me or ask for permission for use. If I have to use images from interviews on others sites I always make credit to the band. If I ever have to change anything I will. I don’t make any money from my site so the last thing I want is lawyers banging down my door.

  5. I take photos for my own site and really don’t care whether or not people lift them for their own use. Huge company or personal use. I took them so people would see them, isn’t that the point?

  6. I had to drop a line on this one, regarding the comment left by R.

    Even if you’re not intending to make money from your photos, it’s not ok to steal them. Now imagine that your photos are actually putting food on the table for you and your family: no, taking pictures just for other people to see isn’t the point.
    With that point of view it should be ok for me to grab their music files and post them on my site for all to take. Maybe I could even credit the band and the label. Think they would mind?

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