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Here’s How NOT to Respond to a Copyright Issue: Magazine Sends Photographer Profanity-Laced, Threatening Email

We’ve been following Adweek‘s coverage of a he-said-she-said fiasco too bizarre to be ignored, and now that both parties have provided the news source with conflicting statements, the behavior of the magazine involved seems to have gone far past questionable and has entered the realm of actively self-destructive. In fact, if PR failures were presents, this debacle would be the gift that just keeps on giving.

Kathy Shea Mormino, who runs the popular backyard chicken website The Chicken Chick, says it all started when a fan alerted her that one of her copyrighted photos appeared on Survival Magazine‘s blog and Facebook page. As the magazine had not asked her permission to use her photograph, Mormino says she sent a Facebook message and an email to the publication, explaining the situation and requesting that her image be removed. When the magazine did not respond to her messages or take down the picture, Mormino filed a copyright infringement complaint with Facebook, which led the social network to remove the photo from the magazine’s Facebook page.

The magazine’s response to Mormino’s actions shocked her so much, that she shared it (along with the below screenshot as proof) with her fans on her own Facebook page, saying, “THIS is the email I just received from Survival Magazine. What on earth is WRONG with some people?!”

chcken-photo-hed-2014_0-1

In case it’s difficult to read off the image, here’s what the email said (heads-up for profanity):

“For someone who raises chickens you’re a complete and total jerk, you have cost us hundreds of dollars in promotions of our posts, and we will be sueing you to recoup that and legal fees which are estimated to be between 5-10k. What an asshole with nothing better to do than go around the web filing false take down notices. We will also be contacting all of your sponsors.”

Usually, it’s around this time that a company in question would blame an overzealous, drunk, or otherwise-compromised intern, make its mea culpa, and hope it all goes away. But not Survival Magazine.

Rather than back down or apologize after having its dirty laundry displayed for all to see, the magazine retorted by sending a statement to Adweek claiming that Mormino never attempted to make direct contact requesting that her image be taken down. Further, the statement goes on to explain that the strongly-worded, ridiculously unprofessional message was actually justified because Mormino “maliciously” filed take-down notices on multiple Survival Magazine Facebook posts that had nothing to do with her.

The thing is, Mormino maintains that this is blatantly false, and she can prove it.

She sent multiple documents to Adweek to show that her story holds up where the magazine’s does not. Not only is there a screen shot that proves Mormino did, in fact, politely contact the magazine via Facebook to ask that her copyrighted image be removed from its site, but her statement (portions of which are included below) leaves little room for argument and boldly invites the magazine to provide one “iota of evidence” to back up its claims.

“One can plainly see that I contacted Survival Magazine directly by commenting underneath my photo on their Facebook page at 2:00 pm on 2/12/14.  I identified myself as the owner of the copyrighted photo and requested that they remove it from their page. Survival Magazine deleted my comment, ignoring my respectful, polite request. I filed a copyright infringement complaint with Facebook and Facebook removed the photo from Survival Magazine’s FB page at 5:40pm. For Survival Magazine to claim that they took the photo down themselves, implying that their moral compass pointed in the right direction at any point in the course of these interactions, is patently false…

For some anonymous entity at Survival Magazine to claim that I filed a “false take down notice” is sheer insanity. There is no dispute that the photo is of my chickens and my chicken coops in my backyard or that I took it and watermarked it. Further, there is no dispute that Survival Magazine used my photo on Facebook and their website without my permission.

Finally, in response to the claim that I filed ‘take down notices on about 10 of our posts that custom content created {sic} by us and had nothing to do with her’ I categorically deny that baseless claim.

I challenge Survival Magazine to produce an iota of evidence in support of the accusation that I filed more than one Facebook copyright complaint. Facebook provides notices to the complainant and offender when removing content from a page; those notices contain the complainant’s name and contact information as well as a section that requires the complainant demonstrate ownership of the challenged content. I filed one and only one complaint against Survival Magazine’s Facebook page. Any accusation to the contrary is 100% fabricated.”

Unsurprisingly, Survival Magazine has not yet come forward to provide the evidence that Mormino has boldly invited it to produce, but should this saga of disastrous PR continue, we’ll keep you updated.

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