You Won’t Believe How This Magazine Replied to a Photographer’s Copyright Claim

Chicken grower says she was insulted, threatened with lawsuit

Headshot of David Griner

UPDATE: We've received responses from both Survival Magazine (which is online only had says it has no print edition) and the photographer. You can read their statements at the bottom of this post.

Original item below:

How should you respond if a photographer says you're using her photo without permission? Probably not by calling her an asshole.

Kathy Shea Mormino, proprietor of the popular backyard chicken site The Chicken Chick, says that's what happened to her when she tried to get one of her photos removed from Survival Magazine's Facebook page and blog.

On her own business' Facebook page, Mormino shared a screenshot of an email she received from the magazine with the subject line "You're an asshole Kathy." The note also called her "a complete and total jerk" and threatened to come after her for up to $10,000 in legal fees. The magazine's email called her action a "false take down" and noted "we will be contacting all your sponsors."

Here's how Mormino (whose LinkedIn bio says she's also an attorney) described the situation to her 133,000 Facebook fans:

A fan alerted me yesterday that someone removed my watermark from my photo & used it without permission on their blog and Facebook page, so I sent them an email AND FB message requesting that they remove it. They ignored me & deleted my FB request, so I reported the copyright infringement to the Internet Police who took it down for them. THIS is the email I just received from Survival Magazine. What on earth is WRONG with some people?! Please feel free to let them know what you think of that.

Her supporters say they posted several incensed comments on the magazine's Facebook page, only to have all the comments removed. The page currently does not allow any "posts by others" and seems to be removing comments about the issue when they're posted to the magazine's other Facebook activity.

We reached out to both Mormino and Survival Magazine early today for comment and will update if we hear back.

UPDATE: Survival Magazine tells Adweek that Mormino never contacted them about the photo but instead complained to Facebook. One of its contributors sent the email to Mormino, the magazine claims, "not in response to any contact from her but in response to her complaining to facebook about several of our posts that had nothing to do with her chickens or her content. She was doing malicious stuff. She filed take down notices on about 10 of our posts that custom content created by us and had nothing to do with her."

The magazine also claims that the watermark was never removed from the photo, and that the photo was removed "immediately" after the magazine was notified of Mormino's Facebook post, not because she contacted the magazine.

Survival also confirms it shut down its Facebook page because of the ordeal.

UPDATE 2: Mormino reached out to Adweek late Friday to provide the following screenshots and comment. She denies Survival Magazine's portrayal of events, saying she only filed a take-down notice with Facebook for her photo and no other content. 

To disprove the site's claims that "she never ever notified us, not once," Mormino provided the following screenshot of her original Facebook comment notifying them of her copyright:

Mormino also sent Adweek copies of the original email she received from Survival Magazine calling her an asshole. Here is the complete text:

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.

In addition, Mormino sent us Facebook's confirmation notice for the removal of the chicken photo, which she says it's the only content she filed a take-down request for.

After the jump, you can read Mormino's full statement:

The screenshot images in the photo collage speak for themselves. 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.

At 5:50pm on 2/12/14, an unidentified agent from Survival Magazine emailed me the profane response to Facebook's take-down notice seen in the photo collage above. No person at Survival Magazine has ever identified themselves as the author of that email or as the author of the reply to the Adweek article, which calls into question more than just their professionalism. 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. Whether my photo ever contained a watermark and whether Survival Magazine ever removed a watermark from my photo is completely irrelevant to the issue of unauthorized use of my intellectual property.

Last, this is a very clear instance of theft of intellectual property by Survival Magazine. I would have excused the unauthorized use of my photo. Their bad behavior ex post facto, however, is completely inexcusable. 


@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."