How to Properly Share a Copyrighted Professional Concert Photo

OK folks, let me preface this post by saying that this is a direct result of an artist taking a photo of mine, downloading it from my website, cropping out my watermark, lowering the quality,  and then re-uploading it to their Twitter and Facebook sites and giving no attribution. This is a living, breathing, indexed resource for all concert photographers, so if you have something to add, either and experience, tip or copyright info, please leave a comment.

I have been shooting live music for almost five years and I am always happy to see the bands I photograph share my images via their social media channels. That is one of the main reasons I do this, to help promote bands that I love and do my best to capture their essence and energy live in order to share it with the world. It’s a passion that doesn’t pay very much at all, so when someone steals a photo and refuses to give attribution or credit, it really hits home. As a professional photographer I have spent a tremendous amount of my own time, energy, and money to support my passion, not to mention the hours of post-processing and writing of reviews. If someone takes that for granted, it can be incredibly frustrating.

Every day  artists, bands, singers, songwriters, fans, and more are sharing copyrighted images across social networks, and in my opinion that’s perfectly OK, as long as it was uploaded to the social network of choice by the copyright holder themselves. As a professional photographer I appreciate the exposure and often encourage it, but sometimes my images get saved, downloaded, re-uploaded, cropped, and manipulated beyond recognition, and that’s where the problems begin.

One of the most famous cases of this happening is when the band Red Jumpsuit Apparatus took a photo, cropped it down, lowered the quality and posted it without any credit or even a thank you to the original photographer What happened next was unbelievable.

That photographer was Rohan Anderson and I think he hit the nail on the head in a statement on his personal blog recapping the entire incident.

“We’re sick of being paid very little, if at all, and then having our images stolen. If you swing us an email asking permission, most of the time we’ll be more than happy to say yes if you just put our name on it. If you react like Red Jumpsuit Apparatus have, expect us to fight back.”

My new friend Patrick O’Keefe, who has some experience with copyrights infringement, took a few minutes to share with me the technical aspect of how sharing a copyrighted image works in this instance.

“Technically speaking, a band cannot take a photo, use it on their website, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – even if they include a credit link, even if they maintain a watermark, even if they include “no copyright infringement intended.” None of that matters.

It only matters if the copyright holder (in this case, the photographer) gives the band explicit permission to use it in this way or you release it under a license that permits that use (a Creative Commons license, for example).”

The bottom line here is that you can share a copyrighted photo without explicit permission if the law allows it (for example, the fair use exception of copyright.)

That’s the technical version which I can appreciate, but in the real world of social media, there is certainly going to be a lot of grey area. So what I propose is a compromise that I think a lot of my fellow photogs can agree with.

If you are a band and you take someone’s photo in order to post it to a social network, just say thank you and give them credit. If you do that simple thing it works out for both the artist, the photog and most importantly, the fans. Refusal to do this coupled with snarky comments for doing so can easily get out of hand which isn’t good for anyone involved.

If the copyright owner asks for the band to remove their photo, they must do so.Taking it a step further, if a band takes said photo and uses i for monetary gain, removes the watermark etc  it can potentially cost them greatly – “Section 1202 of the U.S. Copyright Act makes it illegal for someone to remove the watermark from your photo so that it can disguise the infringement when used. The fines start at $2500 and go to $25,000 in addition to attorneys’ fees and any damages for the infringement. ”

With that being said, I thought I would share a few examples of artists that have shared my photos and some of my friends photos across social networks that can be a nice compromise. I personally have no problem with band’s sharing in this manner with our without asking permission.

1. A fantastic example of one of my favorite bands Filter sharing a friend and fellow photog Michael Rosati’s photos from the recent show here in San Francisco. 


2. I love this one, quick and simple retweet from Frank Turner. Look at those engagement numbers by the way! This is essentially free publicity for Frank.

2Frank Turner

3. The almighty Megadeth always go out of their way to properly credit their photogs and it shows. Thanks Megadeth!


4. The fine folks over at the Monsters of Rock Cruise are constantly sharing photos from the many pro photogs on the boat which drives a tremendous amount of engagement.

Monsters of Rock

5. This is especially great for up and coming bands such as the one below. Sharing the original with the watermark in place. Nicely done.

Tango Alpha Tango

6. Another great example of a band on the rise, I shot this band and absolutely loved them. The have been nothing but thankful and respectful in their sharing. This was a tough room to shoot and I pulled out what I thought to be some great photos, it wasn’t easy but I am happy that the band is happy with them.

Vaudeville Etiquette

This isn’t a money thing as I am not that concerned with financial gain. What I do is try to capture a moment and give the artist something inspiring. Thanks for reading. How do you feel about band’s sharing your photos across social media sites?

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Jason Miller
Jason Miller

Jason Miller is a leading digital B2B marketer, who’s held senior roles at LinkedIn, Marketo, and ActiveCampaign. Before entering the B2B space, he spent ten years at Sony, developing and executing marketing campaigns around the biggest names in music. He is a prolific keynote speaker, digital marketing instructor at UC Berkeley, and best-selling author. Also an accomplished rock concert photographer, his work appears in books, magazines, and album covers.

5 thoughts on “How to Properly Share a Copyrighted Professional Concert Photo”

  1. Red Dragon Cartel (Jake E. Lee) either made my photo their ‘profile pic’ or simply just shared it via Facebook. I don’t remember at the moment, but It got a lot of his fans looking and commenting, and hopefully some of them went further to check out more of my stuff…

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  3. Pingback: How to Properly Share a Copyrighted Professional Concert Photo | Rock ‘n Roll CocktailRock ‘n Roll Cocktail | Music Connection- Dayton

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