An Open Letter to Jim Urie and SOPA/PIPA Supporters

Pardon me while I laugh out loud at the likes of the RIAA and music labels that are supporting and backing SOPA (Stop Online Pirating Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act).  Why do I find this amusing when perhaps I should be freaking out? Well, because I think the RIAA and many (not all) musicians that are backing these bills are hypocrites.  Yes, I said it, hypocrites! It drives me nuts when artists complain about fans illegally downloading their music on the peer-to-peer networks.  Back in the day, I used to have sympathy for those artists–not much, but there was a thread of it present. Now that I am a photographer and writer myself, many artists have squashed any shred of sympathy I had left for them. Why? Here it is:

I started photographing concerts about 4 years ago. Throughout the years  I’ve had more and more artists asking to use my photographs for one reason or another, such as personal use, social media PR, and things of that nature. The funny part is that artists don’t like paying for photos and neither does their management (it’s like pulling teeth), and since there are so many photographers, if one asks for money they can say “no thank you” and turn to another photographer. It doesn’t break my heart; I am not angry because it’s life. It just becomes a challenge to make a living off shooting concerts; it can be nearly impossible.  However, I choose to find different revenue streams for myself instead of being angry and fighting.  Fighting? Yes, because after 4 years of doing this, I found that artists just go ahead and take the photograph(s) and use them anyways.  They see it as just a photograph, but it is art to me…it’s my art and they just took it and used it.  Sometimes they don’t even make contact about a photo and they just use it on their Facebook and social media pages without permission, and who knows what else they are doing with the photos.  Isn’t that stealing? Yes, yes it is…they are doing exactly what they hate their fans for doing.

I don’t really want to fight these artists for a scrap of money.  I see other photographers spend a lot of time and effort damaging their own image in the process because they take to social media sites publicity bashing the artists, fans, and websites that use their images without permission (sometimes it’s the only way to get their attention). Going after an artist for compensation for using photos can lead to unintended side effects, such as being blacklisted. Don’t think that can’t and won’t happen because it does.  In the business of shooting and covering live shows, one lives and dies by an artist, management, and/or PR firm’s hand.

So I laugh at the groups that are pushing SOPA and PIPA through our Senate and House.  You won’t win, because who deemed The Entertainment World high ruler of the Internet?  The industry does the same things that it is trying to stop just to make a buck. One is no better than the other.

Below is a 4 minute video about the intended purpose of PIPA now in the Senate.  It’s scary to see how much control one industry would have over the Internet.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

While the internet is buzzing and bloggers, sites, and companies are publicly standing up against SOPA  and PIPA, some of the associations that are involved with backing the bill are taking to their email contact lists and assuming that all the people on it are for it; that’s a bad assumption.   Below is the email sent out to a list of people, I am suspecting music journalists and bloggers, from Jim Urie CEO of Universal Music Group. Mind you, these are a semi-regularly emails sent to the list and not quite sure how I ended up on it. Please note the two websites at the bottom of the email as they list supporters of SOPA and PIPA.


We need your help – please take a minute and act now. Legislation is pending in Congress that would address foreign websites engaged in piracy and counterfeiting but it has been wildly mischaracterized in the media and blogosphere. The hyperbole has caused a lot of people to contact Congress in opposition to bills that have, in reality, been carefully balanced to ensure that we help bring law and order to the Internet without jeopardizing the communications tool that is vital to all our lives and livelihoods.

Your overwhelming response to my earlier emails helped kick-off this legislative effort. Now, the issue is at a fever pitch. Even if you sent an e-mail in support of this legislation before, it’s time to do so AGAIN.

Please click HERE to send an e-mail to Congress asking them to support this important legislation. It only takes a moment but makes a big difference – just enter your home address and click “send.”

Jim Urie

P.S. – To learn more about this issue and the legislation under consideration, please visit or

My concern is:  Who is going to protect people like me from the likes of the associations that will be in control that steal my work?  If SOPA and PIPA pass, can I shut down the artists that steal my work or put them in jail for 5 years? 

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  1. Shadoboxxer says:

    You make a very solid point, and it was a view I was not aware of till now.

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