Day Two of the Hipster Runoff Photo-Stealing Scandal, Or, A Bloggable New Story


“What percentage of what you do is completely sarcastic, as opposed to mostly sarcastic?” we asked Hipster Runoff blogger Carles, back in February. “Are you basically playing a character? Are you in character now?” The answer, then as now, seems to be very much yes, as local freelance photog Kyle Dean Reinford found out the hard way. Yesterday Hipster Runoff posted, without consent or credit, a few of Reinford’s photos of the xx that had originally appeared on Stereogum; Reinford replied with “a polite email asking him to remove them.” Chaos ensued, peaking in a wholly unreal email exchange between the photographer and renegade blogger, who seems to be making wild and interesting strides into the real world. How unreal was the exchange? Well:

Here’s Kyle writing to Carles yesterday:

    What I’m objecting is mainly the defacing of one of my photos. I don’t appreciate it. On top of that, I don’t appreciate my photos being used without my permission. I own the copyright. I understand your idea of sharing may be a bit different then mine, but that doesn’t change the basic concept of stealing.

I’m not killing any spirit, but I do this for a living – it’s a business. I share photos all the time with people that I respect, that ask for things instead of taking them, and act in a professional manner. When you reach that status, we can talk.

And, after some back and forth in which HRO offered to enter into a “content sharing program” and help get Kyle into shows, and Kyle retorted by noting the “crass and gossip monger-esque” writing on HRO, and further elaborating on his desire not to be associated with said writing, Carles responded in kind:

Bro, It seems better for both of our careers if you continue to throw lil twitter fits about our ordeal. I feel like the more coverage we can get, the more famous+successful we have the opportunity to be. I am excited about getting coverage from the Village Voice (used to read that one on the subway before it was a blog) and the Daily Swarm.

I feel like we should not worry about the photographs any more, because we created something more valuable than the pictures of the band–we created a bloggable new story. It seemed like your biggest concern was making sure that the members of the XX and their management team still trusted you, and would utilize you, enabling you to stay close to the music + able to remain bros with the band in some capacity. I feel like at this point, it is something that every one could laugh off, or you could just blame it on me, saying something like, “That guy is a renegade. I hate that guy” if they took any offense.

Please feel free to leak our email conversation to the Village Voice or another outlet that will help us to establish our brands in the alternative scene. I have heard numerous stories that you submit and tweet your photos to numerous outlets, so I honestly feel like this is ‘best case scenario’ since your brand is probably 5x to 10x stronger now.

Let me know if you have any strategies about how we can make this situation have even better outcomes.


At which communication pretty much shut down–not surprising maybe, as the above letter is more performance art than negotiation. We wrote Kyle and asked if he wanted to explain his feelings on the matter. This is what he sent back:

    Yesterday I was notified that Hipster Runoff was using a few of my photos of buzzband The xx on their site without my permission. They had lifted the shots off of Stereogum, the site I was shooting for the night of the show. I went to check it out and saw that not only had they used two shots, they had defaced one of them in their Perez Hilton-esque style. I’m not a big fan of having my copyrighted material jacked, and even less of a fan of having it altered, so I sent him a polite email asking him to remove them. What I got back was:

“Hey Bro, I think it is better for the scene if I leave the pix up. Let me know if you disagree.”

And then Kyle shared the rest of the exchange and the emails you see above. As of now, the photos in question are still up over at HRO, a situation becoming more grating for the photographer by the moment:

    Suffice it to say, I’m still a bit peeved that these photos aren’t down. At this point, it’s not about the photos, it’s about the principle of the matter. Music photographers (and freelancers in general) aren’t compensated much for what they do, and when our work is stolen on top of that, it makes for a really shitty situation. I emailed him that I didn’t tip you guys off, and that I’d like the photos down. No response. Emailed him that I’m not above suing the motherfucker. Emailed him that I sent a DMCA takedown notice to his web hosting (which should hopefully take down his site until he takes down that content) and to Bing, Google and Yahoo, requesting that his site is removed from their web search engines. I’ve yet to hear a response from him, but I’m sure he’s enjoying the controversy. Traffic is good for him, which kind of sucks – I wish this debate would take away from his traffic, rather than add to it.

Basically, I just want to be someone that stands up for a community of photographers that’s been taken advantage of too much. I, like many of my good friends and colleagues, come across my work on the web – many times uncredited and with no link. It’s disheartening to know that what we live for many times doesn’t come back to us. We’re a struggling bunch in the digital era when everyone has a camera and everyone’s a photographer. It’s increasingly difficult to make a living, but man, it’d be much easier if our work was honored and treated with the respect it deserves. It’s crazy to think that some asshole can anonymously steal copyrighted work, completely disregard the English language and its structure, and somehow make money off of the ads from his site.

Hope this brings to light a real issue right now on the web.


And thus does the Borat of the internet do battle with a photographer who probably picked a tough fight, though it may well be a just one. Us, we’re torn between what is a kind of dazzling cameo in the real world by a guy who has been doing this kind of thing for a while on the page but not much in real life, and sympathy for the basic principals surrounding certain pretty respectable ideas around copyright, fair use, and dealing with other humans as if they were people, rather than hapless and inadvertent straight men on the grand stage of internet comedy. Just doing our part for everybody’s brand in the alternative scene, I guess.

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