Reflections on Hate and Some Answers for Arch Enemy

After we published our article and video about the copyright issues that I had with Arch Enemy, which was later picked up to run on PetaPixel, one of the largest photography magazines in the world, things went pretty crazy for a while. Before we knew it, the story was on the front page of Reddit, and it was being reported on all around the world. To date, almost a million people have read it, and almost half a million people have seen the accompanying video.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with artists and fans reaching out to us to express their support, as well as to share their own experiences. Some of them told us that the story had been long overdue, as this type of practices were rampant in the music industry.  We received several stories from photographers from around the world who, with different bands and management companies, had been punished for precisely the same reason, or had refused to shoot certain bands or events because they were expected to give up all their rights over their photos.

At first, our intention was to simply move on from the story, especially after we saw that other people were receiving insults and threats. However, when I saw that Angela Gossow and people connected to Arch Enemy had made slanderous accusations against me, openly accusing me of being a “troll” or of committing a number of crimes, it became obvious that it was necessary to respond. This was even more evident when we started to receive hate mail and criticism that echoed those same accusations, as it demonstrated that it was necessary to clarify the situation.

Since, by their very nature, many of these misconceptions were based on public comments made by Angela Gossow (here, here, and here), Alissa-White Gluz (here and here) and Jeremy Saffer (an American photographer whose article about this case was shared by Angela on Facebook), their comments are referenced in the FAQ below (you can click the respective links to see the screenshots of the relevant sections).

Before diving into these misconceptions, however, it is important to also discuss a very negative thing that happened after my article was published. For reasons that I really can’t even begin to understand, Marta Gabriel, the owner of Thunderball Clothing, received an avalanche of threats and disgusting insults. The abuse was so extreme that she felt compelled to close her business and to disappear (at least temporarily) from social media. People sent her death threats, as well as racist and misogynistic insults that, honestly, defy explanation. It’s absolutely shameful that anybody would do something like this.

There is no excuse for harassing people. Nothing in my article justifies the kind of anger that would lead anyone to act in such an abusive manner against someone else. At worst, Marta made a mistake, was given the wrong advice, and has since done everything in her power to rectify what happened. Still, even if, for the sake argument, we were to believe that she did everything on purpose, even that would not justify people abusing her like this. This is, after all, just a dispute about copyright which, at worst, simply means that I did not get properly compensated for my work, and that I got blacklisted from covering shows. Nothing in that story is bad enough to warrant harassing or threatening others. The same thing applies in regards to Angela Gossow, Alissa White-Gluz, Jeremy Saffer, and anybody else who has publicly disagreed with me, as they absolutely do not deserve to be harassed as a result of what they did or said. We all make mistakes, and we all deserve the opportunity to accept their responsibility, learn from the experience, and to move on.

While we might update this FAQ in the future, and provided no massive new developments happen, we hope that this will be our last publication on this matter.

FAQ

1. This should not have been published 6 months after it all happened
2. This should have been dealt with privately
3. Some emails or messages have not been published / This is not the full story
4. The only reason why this escalated was because money/being a lawyer was mentioned
5. My messages were threatening/extortive/amount to blackmail
6. Arch Enemy have the right to ban anyone from their concerts / You shouldn’t complain because you don’t pay for their shows anyway
8. Nobody should demand €500/money for an Instagram post
9. The cancer charity is a scam / requesting a donation is evil because of [reasons]
10. The only reason to publish this story was to make money
11. Since the blacklisting was done by Arch Enemy and not their sponsor, there was no reason to mention the name of the company
12. There was a deliberate attempt to create a harassment campaign against Thunderball Clothing, its owner, Arch Enemy or its members
13. I should have handled this privately by suing the band or their sponsor
14. I have silenced those who have come out to defend the band
15. Since Alissa appears in the photo, she has the right to let anyone use it
16. Nobody should be allowed to profit from Alissa’s image without her permission
17. My actions demonstrate that artists should use aggressive contracts to control the use of their images
18. Metal Blast is not an actual magazine, it’s just my own private blog

1. This should not have been published 6 months after it all happened

A number of people (including Angela, Alissa and Jeremy) have suggested that the fact that this was published in December, betrays a dark motivation.  That’s the entirety of the argument. They don’t explain what was the benefit of waiting 6 months, or how it’s supposed to have worked in my favor; instead, they just throw this argument as if it was self-explanatory.

First of all, I think it’s concerning to see that some people would apparently discover an unfair behavior and say “well, it’s been 6 months, let’s move on!” Bullying and abusive practices do not become any less serious simply because a few months have passed. By the same token, Angela’s methods against photographers (see point 4 below) do not become any less serious by the mere passage of time. What she did 6 months ago is just as serious as if she did it today.

Second, I’m still not sure as to how these 6 months are supposed to have helped me. The article had no additional “dirt” on anyone that had been gathered in those 6 months and so, as a result, I don’t understand how the delay is supposed to have benefited me or Metal Blast.

Finally, and as I’ve explained before, I spent the second half of 2018 being quite ill and, because of that, decided that I would not be able to deal with any backlash that came from the article, be it positive or negative, even though I expected a much lower response. In hindsight, having already done interviews, with more interviews and speaking engagement requests coming in regularly, thousands of messages of both anger and support, receiving death threats, seeing my name in several newspapers, and having to deal with the technical demands associated with the increasing visits to our site, I think I made the right decision. Of course, I’ve seen people saying that unless I was in a coma, I should have been able to publish the article before. Thankfully, I don’t need their approval to decide how to deal with my own health.

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2. This should have been dealt with privately

A number of people have argued that making the story public was unethical. For example, a famous photographer (and friend of the band), left a public comment on our Facebook page simply stating “NEVER post direct communication publically. PRIVATE messages should remain PRIVATE!” (sic), adding that the fact that I had made Angela’s behavior public amounted to a “sensational[istic] way to tell a bunch of crap about a successful band/business.” In other words, sharing what I had received from Angela was a breach of  ethical and journalistic standards. Angela Gossow went even further than this when, in an absolutely bizarre and unhinged comment, argued that sharing the messages was somehow “unethical and contrary to the code of conduct for European lawyers,” as it was a “private business conversation that was never meant for public consumption.”

It is worth dividing this into two parts:

  • Private Communications: Any “privacy” that could be alleged existed in my communications with Angela/Arch Enemy was certainly destroyed the minute she forwarded all the emails to several other people who, up until that point, had not been involved in this matter. By acting like this, Angela demonstrated that she did not consider our emails to be confidential or private, and also forced me to take steps towards remedying the enormous damage that she was inflicting on my reputation. It is worth noting that immediately after I received her last message, I tried to contact all of the people that she had forwarded the correspondence to (including her slanderous accusation of sending “threatening correspondence”), and received no response whatsoever from any of them. Clearly, and I cannot blame them for this, when it came to choosing between my word or hers, these industry insiders had decided to take hers . If this attempt to blacklist me hadn’t happened, then this truly would have been simply a “private business conversation,” and there would have been no reason to make it public. Since the slander and an attempt at blacklisting did happen, however, going public was the only option.
  • Ethical Standards for Lawyers: Since I have never served as Angela’s lawyer, nor have I provided her, or any related person or business, any legal services whatsoever, whether informally or formally, I sincerely don’t know where Angela got the idea that this could possibly go against the ethical norms for lawyers (whether in Europe or anywhere else). Plus, I never gave any indication that I was acting as a lawyer, or trying to commence legal proceedings. What Angela seems to be suggesting is that the fact that I happen to be a lawyer means that anything I say to anyone about anything is, somehow, governed by the same rules that apply in regards to the clients of my legal practice. This is absolutely nonsensical, and just as ridiculous as assuming that because Angela is a singer, she only communicates by breaking into song.

It has been disappointing to see how many people seem to believe that the privacy of Angela’s communications with me is more important than the photographers on whose rights she has trampled (see point 4 below). Since silence is precisely what allows bullying and abusive behavior to exist, I would really like to believe that the people who have made these arguments do not actually live their lives staying quiet about unfair situations, simply because they don’t want to bring attention to those acting unfairly.

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3. Some emails or messages have not been published / This is not the full story

Some people have suggested that I only published part of my communications with Arch Enemy. Angela herself tried to put forward this lie, stating in a (now-deleted) Facebook post that this was all “alternative facts,” made up of “copy and pasting bits and pieces” (sic). Similarly, Alissa argued that my story had “misconstrued” the facts. Some fans of the band have also tried this defense in order to somehow justify that someone they love and admire acted in this manner; indeed, as one of their fans commented on our Facebook page: “I believe there are more back and forth emails in the middle that caused Angela to attack him in that way.” Following that same idea, although in this case trying to justify how one of his paying customers did something wrong, Jeremy Saffer joined the choir of conspiracy theorists, demanding that readers of his ramble against me ask themselves why “this person is posting this 6 months later and if -just maybe- their post is a bit skewed to show him in a better light than the band.” Once again, there isn’t any evidence that anything is missing, or that anything is skewed. Instead, he just uses the cowardly “I’m just asking questions” argument.

This is a clever way to twist the situation, because it places on me an impossible evidential burden, since it is impossible to prove a negative (in this case, that there are no other emails, or that there are no parts of the story that went untold) . Of course, it also demonstrates the mental gymnastics that someone will go through in order to convince themselves that a person they admire, or for whom they work, cannot really have done something wrong. It’s the kind of victim-blaming that is normally worded as “he/she must have done something to deserve it.”

Of course, the people offering this defense have yet to explain how come our evil “master plan” of attacking Arch Enemy (crafted after what they argue were 6 months of intense preparation and planning) somehow had the gigantic defect of making stuff up, and which could easily be defeated if the band or their management simply showed the “real emails”. As far as structural flaws go, this is the equivalent of the Death Star having a titanic-sized weak spot. And yet, despite this glaring flaw in what they portray as our evil scheme, nobody has published any emails, messages or communications that contradict our story.

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4. The only reason why this escalated was because money/being a lawyer was mentioned

A number of people have argued that if I hadn’t mentioned that I’m a lawyer then none of this would have happened. Alissa made this point when she said that Thunderball Clothing received a lawyer’s letter,” as well as Angela, who argued that if I had just introduced myself as a photographer, instead of sending her a “lawyers correspondence” (sic) then she would have “reacted differently,” since the term “lawyer” felt “threatening” to her. She even argued that Alissa had been so affected and paralyzed by the word “lawyer,” that she had “fearfully removed” my photo. Jeremy Saffer made a similar point, arguing that mine was a “nasty email” where I charged “an obscene amount of money,” so that the reaction was absolutely justified.

In order to analyze the accuracy of this claim, it’s better to review the experiences of photographers who are not lawyers, who did not demand any money for the unauthorized use of their work, and who sent a very respectful cease and desist to Arch Enemy‘s management (these photographers have either authorized the use of their names and/or have openly discussed this situation in the media):

  • Anouk Timmerman: On December 22, 2009, Dutch photographer Anouk Timmerman contacted Angela Gossow’s official site, explaining that there were photos there that had been re-posted without authorization from her Flickr account. She explained that they could either take the photos down within 24 hours, or they could pay a license of €75 per photo. On February 7, 2010, almost two months after the photos had been taken down by the webmaster, Angela contacted Anouk and stated: I will personally make sure you will not get adminissioned for a photo pass for further Arch Enemy gigs in the future (sic).
  • Markus Wetzlmayr: On June 24, 2014, Austrian photographer Markus Wetzlmayr sent an email to Arch Enemy’s management because some of his photos had been posted without authorization on Alissa’s official Facebook page. He explained that the photos had to be removed immediately, although he’d be willing to discuss some form of payment for a license if they wanted to continue using them. On the same day, Angela replied to Markus questioning how come he did not appreciate “the exposure/advertisement” that they were giving to his work, adding that, from that point onwards, the band would neither promote his photos, nor allow him to take any photos of them.

As the experiences of these photographers show, the practice of banning photographers has bee applied regardless of whether someone mentions being a lawyer or brings up the issue of money. Some might argue that saying that I was a lawyer was what motivated Angela to go beyond her “usual” ban, and to actually contact third parties and accuse me of sending her “threatening correspondence” (see point 5 below), but it’s really impossible to know for sure.

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5. My messages were threatening/extortive/amounted to blackmail

“Extortion” and “threat” seem to have been the words of the season on Arch Enemy’s side, as they repeated them over and over, in the hopes that people would believe such characterization. This is why, for example,  Alissa said that I had sent “extortive emails,” and why Jeremy Saffer stated that, upon noticing this infringement, I had sent “extortive messages demanding the payment of an obscene amount of money.” Similarly, Angela Gossowsfirst comment on this situation was that I was “some guy” who had “threatened [them] over an instagram re-post.”

This is one of the most concerning arguments that have been put forward, since it implies that photographers are supposed to be subservient in their communications with people who simply take their work without permission. Since they see the mere mention of money as scary, threatening and extortive, they appear to be arguing that a photographer is supposed to contact infringers in an absolutely pathetic and pitiful manner, thanking them for the opportunity of not getting paid.

It is especially worrying to see this argument come from already-established photographers, since they make such comments from the comfortable position granted by their own career and reputation. Since their photographic work has already been recognized, they’ve been adequately compensated for it, and they no longer need to struggle to become well-known, they feel that it’s not a big loss if other photographers don’t get what they’re due. In fact, they see those photographers as being too uppity in their desire to be compensated, and seem to celebrate the end of their careers. It’s the philosophy of “Fuck you, got mine!”; since they’ve already been taken care of, it doesn’t matter if others aren’t.

In regards to the word lawyer being a “threat,” we cannot forget that Angela Gossow isn’t “just” a singer, but a very intelligent and accomplished businesswoman. This is why she is the manager of Arch Enemy and Amaranthe, two famous metal bands, and so it is impossible to believe that the mere sight of the word “lawyer” would have made her run for the hills, feeling threatened, confused and victimized in the process.

Finally, the best evidence of how false these accusations were comes from the retractions (even if grudging) that both Angela Gossow and Jeremy Saffer issued in regards to their accusations of “extortion” and “threats” (see point 14).

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6. Arch Enemy have the right to ban anyone from their concerts / You shouldn’t complain because you don’t pay for their shows anyway

This line of argumentation fails to see the bigger picture. First of all, it is definitely not OK that photographers are banned just because they want to be compensated for their work. Keep in mind that, as we saw before, this is not the first time that something like this happens to a photographer dealing with Arch Enemy (see point 4). We should think long and hard about whether we really want to make musicians feel empowered to simply decide what journalists get to cover them. While this situation might have been about a photographer, it is not far fetched to assume that negative coverage might result in exactly the same kind of response, ensuring an absolutely compliant and subdued press. As a matter of fact, since the publication of my original article I have been approached by a number of journalists who have complained about being blacklisted because they gave negative coverage to a certain band, artist or label.

What some people seem to forget is that this is, in fact, a journalistic endeavor. As such, I don’t go to concerts merely as a fan or to have a social outing, so when people say that I should just be thankful for the opportunity of not paying for the ticket, they’re forgetting that covering a show is not at all a relaxing night out. As the very talented Scott McMurtrie once stated:

Well you could say, ‘but you get a front row seat to see some top artists for free!’ If I wanted to go see a ‘top artist’ I would buy a ticket and enjoy the show with a beer in my hand!

This is work. I am not there to sing along to the lyrics or play air guitar (although some photographers do!). We are there to capture the moment which full-fills our commitment to who ever commissioned us to be there. Yes it is fun, it is exciting and that’s why I got into it. But it wasn’t that artist now on stage who helped me build my portfolio, or persuaded me to spend years photographing unknown bands in dive bars for free, or phoned countless picture editors begging for work, who trawled the streets with my portfolio knocking on doors. I did that because I knew if I could make a living doing this, it would make me happy (and it has made me happy…so far!). That artist didn’t buy my first camera or the one I use now that is £5000. I had to work in jobs that I didn’t want to be doing and spend everything I got on lenses, film, processing and equipment. Not to mention traveling the breadth of the country photographing anything with a guitar to gain experience and learn the skill of shooting shows. I earned my place in the pit and so has the majority of photographers who are privileged to be there.

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7. Angela never said that I would be blacklisted, only that I wasn’t welcome at Arch Enemy shows

Angela has argued that she did not try to have me blacklisted but that, in fact, she had merely informed her “circle of people that she did not want me at an Arch Enemy photo pit ever again. Failing to toe the party line on this one, Jeremy Saffer actually conceded that I had been blacklisted (because, in his mind, I had “continued demanding payment long after the photos were removed”), adding that my communications with Angela could only have as a result that the band never worked with me again and then “tells other bands, their management, their label, their publicist that this photographer will drop a lawsuit if you repost their images on instagram with credit?! – you’re now a liability, there goes your career (or hobby).”

Putting aside how concerning it is to see a photographer celebrating at the idea of a colleague having his career ended for not wanting to work for free, and that lawsuits were neither mentioned nor implied, it is simply shortsighted and dishonest to assume that the repercussions of Angela’s message would end with Arch Enemy. If, for example, a promoter, label representative, or tour manager, knows that a journalist has been accused of sending “threatening correspondence” to an artist, that person would have to be out of their minds to work with that journalist in any capacity, with any band they work with, ever again. At best, it makes the journalist sound like an asshole and, therefore, not someone they’d want to work with; at worst, it makes the journalist sound dangerous and, of course, someone that should be kept as far away as possible from musicians.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that after situations like the murder of Dimebag Darrell, there aren’t a lot of people who want to work with those who have been labeled as “threatening.” It is because of the enormous and irreparable damage to my reputation that comes from being labeled “threatening,” that making this story public became essential.

I know that having published this story is going to damage my career as a photographer. Despite the very kind messages that I’ve received from countless readers, a non-insignificant number of people have made it abundantly clear to me that my article has absolutely destroyed my future as a concert photographer. Someone close to a major label went as far as letting me know that I have been “tarnished as problematic,” adding that in this “network-based scene” I “should at least refrain from doing that much fuss in public.” Of course, the people asking to keep things quiet don’t explain what other options I had. After all, I had already been “tarnished” as “threatening,” so it’s hard to imagine that “problematic” is that much of a step-down.

This was really a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, as the only way to clear my name and to shed light on Angela‘s practices was to make the issue public; at the same time, making the issue public had to be done at the expense of my name being tarnished for speaking out. At this point, the only thing I can do is to hope that those making decisions that affect my career will actually understand the reason why speaking out was important, and not add insult to injury by punishing me for it.

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8. Nobody should demand €500/money for an Instagram post

I was surprised to see that both Angela and Alissa actually argued that I had “demanded” money. Alissa, for example, claimed that Thunderball Clothing had forwarded her “an email from a lawyer saying she owed 500 euros” and that  “the email included payment method information” (something demonstrably false, as my email neither demanded €500, nor did it include any payment information whatsoever). Similarly, Angela stated on her Facebook page that I had contacted the company “claiming money” for the image. Jeremy Saffer made a similar statement, saying that, apparently not satisfied with having “bullied” the band with my emails, I had also “continued demanding money long after the photos were removed” (never mind the fact that all of my email exchange with Angela occurred during the same 24-hour period).

Before getting into the topic of the value of a photo, it’s important to make one thing clear: I never demanded any amount of money from anyone. Instead, I offered the possibility of donating €100 to the Dutch Cancer Society in lieu of buying a license from me (see point 9). I didn’t send an invoice, I didn’t give them any banking information, I didn’t given them a deadline to make a payment, nor did I tell them that failure to comply would result in legal action.

It is both ridiculous, as well as offensive, to have people question the value of your work after they’ve exploited it. At that point there’s no question that they liked it (that’s why they used it), just how much they value it now that they have to pay for it. Not surprisingly, people tend to undervalue other people’s copyright when they get caught infringing on it.

It’s because of this tendency to price copyright owners down that, for example, under US law the statutory damages that the the copyright holder of a registered work can get start at 750 USD, going all the way up to 150,000 USD per work. You might want to remember that last number, as that is precisely the amount that a photographer is demanding from Jennifer Lopez, after suing her for (you guessed it) an Instagram post.

To understand this situation, think of what happens when you use public transport. In Germany, for example, while a tram ticket will cost you around €3, if you get caught without a ticket, you won’t be able to just pay €3; instead, you will have to pay €60. The idea is that you are not supposed to develop an attitude of “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission,” and so violators lose the right to merely pay the standard ticket price. Similarly, when it comes to copyright, the right moment to negotiate a license is before you use someone else’s work, and not after you’ve been caught using it without authorization. By this I don’t mean that people should be bankrupted because they used someone else’s work, that people should be terrorized into paying large amounts, or that every use of someone else’s work is necessarily infringing. On the contrary; this is precisely why I have never asked for anything from fans or from musicians who use my work on social media (who, although might be strictly infringing on my copyright, are not trying to profit from it), and why I gave Arch Enemy’s sponsor the possibility of just donating €100 to a charity. In any case, I would have been absolutely open to accepting a lower amount to be donated to this charity, had anybody bothered to suggest it; however, the sponsor was told that the band’s management would take care of the situation… and that’s what they did.

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9. The cancer charity is a scam / requesting a donation is evil because of [reasons]

Angela made the bizarre claim that offering to have the license paid as a donation to charity was kind of a scam. She argued, for reasons that I still can’t understand, that making the donation would not grant anyone “the rights to use the photo commercially,” since this could only be done by means of a “paid invoice.” This makes absolutely zero sense since, as the sole copyright holder, I am the person who gets to decide what I want in exchange for licensing my work. While I can obviously ask for a specific amount of money, I can also just give away the license for free (as I often do), or I can ask the other party to do something else (in this case, to donate to a charity). There’s absolutely no reason why donating to a charity would not be valid, so I don’t know where Angela got her information from.

Perhaps most sickening of all is the accusation that, in and of itself, asking for the donation was just an underhanded way of manipulating public opinion (despite the fact that I never thought this would be public to begin with). Jeremy Saffer, for example, argued that asking for the donation was “pre-gaming the post to bash [the band] for ‘not (forcibly) donating to people in need’”. He added that this was made to “trap”  the band for an “eventual smear post.” How I was possibly trying to do anything to the band by contacting a third party (i.e. not-the-band) is something that, unsurprisingly, Jeremy Saffer failed to explain.

Just to put to rest Jeremy’s honorable crusade against my desire to donate to charity, let me just say that I lost my dad to cancer when I was a young kid, and my mom is a cancer survivor. Several family members and friends have died of different kinds of cancer, and I’ve seen first hand what this disease does to people and to their close ones. Because of this, I wanted to just do something beyond what I already donate to this very foundation (which, in all honesty, could probably be more). Realizing that €100 would probably be put to better use if given to them instead of me, I decided to offer this method. Also, it is worth noting that I have operated like this in the past with paying clients who bought  a license from me, so I sincerely hope that Jeremy will not also assume that I was also trying to trap my own clients for eventual “smear posts”.

The people seeing something inherently wicked in my request to donate to charity are really saying something about themselves, more than they do about me. In their minds, requesting the donation must have a secondary motivation, since they cannot possibly imagine someone doing it just because they want to help.

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10. The only reason to publish this story was to make money

When we started Metal Blast, we immediately realized that our style of writing was not going to be something particularly attractive for advertisers. We accepted to cover the costs of the site from our own pockets, instead of having to change the type of work we do in order to function within the ad-revenue model. Neither of us felt like republishing press releases all the time, churning out daily articles, or creating “OLD PEOPLE REACT TO METAL” videos. Because of this, we’ve never had any ads on the site, meaning that whether the Arch Enemy story was visited 2 times, or (as it ended up happening) hundreds of thousands of times, it reported the exact same zero revenue (to be more precise, it actually cost us money, as we had to upgrade our server to handle the load). Although (and this is disclosed on our ethical policy) we sometimes have Amazon affiliate links when we mention an album, a book or a movie (as we would get a small percentage if somebody clicks on that link and buys the item on Amazon), the Arch Enemy story obviously had no affiliate links, as no items were mentioned (i.e. we don’t try to shoehorn items just in case we can get some affiliate revenue).

Since the video that accompanied the article was also not monetized, we saw no revenue from its popularity. Therefore, and because of our own choice, after almost half a million views, the video has generated zero advertisement revenue.

If you do want to support us, feel free to visit our Patreon.

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11. Since the blacklisting was done by Arch Enemy and not their sponsor, there was no reason to mention the name of the company

Since, as we have made it clear from the beginning, the blacklisting came from Arch Enemy’s camp, we discussed whether or not to share the identity of the sponsor that had used my photo. We were concerned that if we did not mention their identity, then that silence would be used against us, portrayed as an example of us “selectively” omitting facts to push our narrative (something that, despite not having hidden anything, we have actually been accused of!). Because of this, and to be completely transparent, we mentioned the identities of all the parties involved, and clearly and unambiguously explained what was the role that each one played.

Finally, and considering that the story dealt with intellectual property, concert photography and heavy metal, we assumed that the story would probably fly under the radar of most people, and never even imagined that it would go viral and attract so much attention (see note 12).

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12. There was a deliberate attempt to create a harassment campaign against Thunderball Clothing, its owner, Arch Enemy or its members

After its owner decided to close Thunderball Clothing, explaining that she had been systematically harassed, Angela wrote that this had been a “bully rally” that I had personally “set lose” (sic).

Since nothing in my article encourages, advocates or proposes harassing, threatening or insulting anyone, it is really sickening to see someone try to blame me for it. What Angela fails to realize is that if we adopt the suppressive approach to speech that she advocates, by making an author responsible for anything his or her readers do, then  she would be the one to blame for the death threats that I’ve received from people calling me an “extortionist,” that “threatened” their favorite band. Similarly, if anybody was to listen to her lyrics for “Under Black Flags We March” (“Legions marching ready to fire / These streets will burn – let the black flags rise”) and then acted violently during a demonstration, she would be the one to blame. Obviously, assuming this approach to speech would be horrible, as it would virtually paralyze our ability to communicate, but that’s precisely what Angela seems to be advocating.

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13. I should have handled this privately by suing the band or their sponsor

Of all of the criticisms against my article, one of the funniest is the one suggesting that a simpler, faster, and more private solution would have been to file a lawsuit against Arch Enemy and/or their sponsor.

Although this criticism is common enough to warrant an answer, it also comes from people who (understandably) have no knowledge of how the legal system works. For starters, lawsuits are not private; on the contrary, they’re public. That’s why, for example, the identity of Tobias Forge as the singer of Ghost became publicly known because he was sued by his former bandmates. Also, conducting legal proceedings, particularly internationally, is an extremely time-consuming and expensive ordeal. Because of this, the only way to make the proceedings worth the time and money invested in them, would be to demand a much higher amount of money than €100 for charity, as I would have to cover the legal fees associated with lawyers, court costs, translations, etc. As a result, instead of allowing the infringer to pay only €100, I would have to demand several thousand Euros instead. I can’t see how that would have been better for anyone.

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14. I have silenced those who have come out to defend the band

In one last-ditch effort to paint herself as a victim, Angela stated that “those going out on the fence defending us are being silenced” (sic) referencing some posts that herself, as well as Jeremy Saffer and Alissa, had removed. Since these removals were made in response to emails that I sent her and Jeremy Saffer, in her mind this was an affront against freedom of speech.

Since I am a firm believer in freedom of speech, and I have actually written articles defending far left and far right artists, as well as defending the right of people to offend religion, as well as to be religious, and even spoken in academic conferences making that very same point, to have my credentials called into question by Angela was a bit annoying.

To put it simply, while your freedom of opinion is (or should be) truly absolute, this doesn’t apply to facts. You cannot just make stuff up, say false things about someone else (outside of comedy, parody or satire, of course), and then try to shield yourself behind your freedom of speech.

When it comes to my own communications with Arch Enemy, for example, Angela would have had the absolute right to say that I sound like a massive asshole (in fact, I know plenty of people who’d agree with her). She could also say that my photos are actually not that good anyway, and that my camera would be better used as a paperweight. She could even say that, in her opinion, I’m not much to look at. All of these things, as bitchy as they might be, would fall under freedom of speech.

The problem is that neither Angela, nor Alissa nor Jeremy decided to share their opinion of me but, instead, decided to make a number of factual claims in regards to the commission of crimes. And that happens to be very much against the law, and very much outside the scope of freedom of speech. Since, from her very first statement on the topic, Alissa accused me extortion and threats, something that Jeremy and Angela then echoed in their own public statements, I sent Angela an email asking her to take those statements down (hers and Alissa’s), since they were slanderous. I sent the same request to Jeremy Saffer. In both cases I made it clear that while up until that point I had not been litigious about this situation, that was very much going to change if they were going to publicly label me a criminal.

Photographers, writers, musicians, singers, and anybody else who feels any interest in this situation, are all absolutely free to give their opinion on the topic and to participate in the debate that has been generated as a result of what happened. They are more than welcome to share their insight and their opinion and support the band. This does not mean, however, that someone can use their very public platform to falsely accuse me of a crime, and hope that I will be scared into silence.

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15. Since Alissa appears in the photo, she has the right to let anyone use it

This claim comes from a mistaken understanding of how copyright works. Generally, the creator of an artistic work is the owner of its copyright. In the case of photos, the photographer is the copyright holder. The fact that a person appears in a photograph, therefore, does not mean that such person is the copyright holder.

Beyond any legal reason, the idea that the person being photographed should automatically be the owner of the photo even goes against common sense. If that was the standard, being a photographer would be an absolutely pointless job, since photographers would never own their work.

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16. Nobody should be allowed to profit from Alissa’s image without her permission

As the owner of the copyright over the photo, my rights to exploit it have certain limitations. Chief among them is the one of exploiting the likeness of the person being photographed for certain commercial purposes. Generally speaking, as a journalist that is fully accredited to cover the events I photograph, I have the right to use my photos for journalistic purposes (such as being used on this and other music magazines), as well as for my own portfolio where I showcase my work. I am not authorized to, for example, sell my photo to another company to make products with  Alissa’s photo on it, or to use her image to imply she is endorsing a given product, unless she expressly authorizes me to do that. Even selling prints can be a touchy subject, as the sale of a high number of them could be seen as an unlawful exploitation of an artist’s image (the rules vary depending on the jurisdiction, which makes the topic even murkier).

In the case at hand, I did not try to “exploit” Alissa’s image but, instead, instructed a sponsor of Alissa that had already exploited my photo, to pay a license for that exploitation. I did not shop around Alissa’s image, nor did I try to sell her likeness to anybody.

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17. My actions demonstrate that artists should use aggressive contracts to control the use of their images

Angela claimed that when there are photographers on site,” artists “have no rights or choice to decide over what they do with the imagery”, which “make artists feel vulnerable”. As a result of this, she argues, “artists are trying to gain control over the situation again by having photographers sign a bunch of paperwork.” This justification is simply false.

As I mentioned before (see point 16) artists have an enormous control to decide how their images are used, since a photographer does not have the right to exploit an artist’s likeness commercially. The artists have the legal right to control how their image is used, and they would be fully entitled to demand that any unauthorized use of their likeness (outside of journalistic coverage, or in a photographer’s portfolio) is stopped.

This is a right that benefits artists without the need to sign any paperwork, as it emanates from their “personality rights” or “rights of publicity.” Still, just to make sure photographers understand this situation, some bands request photographers sign a contract where they merely express that they understand that they don’t have the right to commercially exploit the photos. This is a fairly uncontroversial move on the part of musicians, and which simply seeks to prevent photographers (who, generally, would not be fully informed about image rights and copyright) from unknowingly doing something wrong.

What Angela seems to be arguing for is what is commonly known as a “rights-grab” contract. This is an agreement that is presented to a photographer, usually right before entering the photo pit, and where the photographer is expected to sign away all rights to their work or, at least, grant the artist the right to commercially exploit all the photos without any compensation being given to the photographer. While this practice of using unfair and unconscionable rights-grab contracts has been widely criticized by photographers and artists worldwide, as part of his plea to defend Arch Enemy’s behavior, Jeremy Saffer actually defended their use, seeing them as just the only tool that poor and weak musicians can use to protect themselves from predatory photographers (like me). As he argued:

“These photographers who go after bands for reposting their photos are the same one who complain about photo-releases/right grabs… which exist because of PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO GO AFTER BANDS FOR REPOSTING THEIR PHOTOS. – its an easy way to ruin your career and make sure you don’t work with bands, ever. I wouldn’t be shocked if AE starts having photo-releases moving forward because of this situation, and each photographer who groans about it… this is why. These situations are why they exist. I thought it was funny that in the article he mentioned release forms as something take advantage of photographers, but his actions are what cause bands to implement them.”

Beyond how regrettable it is to see a professional and very talented photographer throw his colleagues under the bus like this, it is certainly worrying to see how comfortable he is expecting other photographers to work for free. Since, in his view, a photographer should never complain when a musician (or, in this case, a sponsor) publishes a photo without authorization, and keeping in mind that there are extremely limited opportunities to actually profit from music photography (it’s not as if most bands are constantly doing photo shoots or releasing albums that include hundreds of images) I really don’t know when he expects other photographers to actually be rewarded for their work.

To, once again, quote the incredibly talented John McMurtrie:

“I work for several high profile bands and work directly with artist management who appreciate the need for good photography. I occasionally give all rights to use my images but the difference is they pay me for it. They appreciate that if I promise I will deliver a great set of pictures I will be true to my word because I am more than qualified to do the job well and have the right tools for the job. But I am only in this position because I have been able to make a living as a photographer and establish myself over many years. I can’t say the same for my contemporary’s who are just entering the music photography world. How can they afford to upgrade equipment and make a living if there is no way of selling their pictures on?

The music industry needs to realise these photographers in the pit have already gone through a lot to earn their position there and deserve a little more respect. By all means issue contracts preventing the sale of pictures for merchandise but don’t take away our ability to make a living”

It would certainly be a sad development if what Arch Enemy’s management learns from this situation is that they should be downright predatory in regards to photographers.

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18. Metal Blast is not an actual magazine, it’s just my own private blog

(Update: Added January 16, 2019)

Since, as the editor and founder of Metal Blast, the vast majority of editorials have been penned by me, this has lead some people to call this my “private blog.” Although I don’t understand the relevance of how many people write or have written for Metal Blast, it would be a great disservice to my fellow writers to just ignore their enormous help.

From the very beginning, Metal Blast has not been a solo effort. In fact, we’ve the very good fortune of having truly fantastic writers publishing under our banner, all of whom did it just for the love of the craft (see note 10)., receiving no compensation whatsoever. They have written the bulk of the reviews that appear on the site, and have juggled their own private responsibilities with the role they play on the site. Because of this, calling this a “private blog,” as if Metal Blast was some kind of journal that I keep for my innermost thoughts, is truly disrespectful against them.

Besides how inaccurate it is to call Metal Blast my own private blog, however, this criticism fails to explain why that would be a problem, or how that would take any legitimacy away from my own problems with Arch Enemy. Indeed, my rights as a photographer are exactly the same whether I shoot for Time Magazine or “Timmy’s 1st WordPress Blog.” If anything, calling this a private blog would grant my grievance even more legitimacy and seriousness, as it would highlight a situation in which an established band tried to strong-arm a much weaker party, assuming it would silently take the abuse.

They were wrong.

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Jeremy had no reason to open his mouth, aside from white-knighting for his friends and very clearly kissing up in an attempt to be sure he gets more work.