Monday, 6 August 2012

David Hoffman answers Freedom

It might make sense to read the previous blog posting, concerning David Hoffman and Freedom! I was concerned that while Freedom had put their case in the public domain, a story repeated across the blogosphere, the only place I could find giving Hoffman's point of view was some extracts from emails reprinted in another anarchist paper. I decided to ask David Hoffman for his side of the story, which is printed below. For most readers, even of this blog, this disagreement might be a little arcane. My own view has changed since my first posting, on reading David Hoffman's side of the story. This does not mean I agree with everything he has said and done (he knows that), but at least his side of the story is now in a small part of the public domain. People can read Freedom's article (via the link in the previous posting) and David Hoffman's response below and can make up their own mind. Being a supporter both of the NUJ and of Freedom, and hoping to continue working with David Hoffman and Freedom in the future, I'm not in the business of making enemies. My view is that this should have been settled by either negotiation or by arbitration. Our world is a small one and we need better ways of handling disputes.
The text below is from David Hoffman, with the sections in italics from Freedom's original article.

People who screw up often look for someone else to blame. Freedom screwed up and blamed me. That’s not important but misleading their supporters and the left in general is. Freedom won’t let me respond on their site so I’m grateful to Ross for space here.

Let’s start with their statement. I’ll put my comments alongside what they wrote (theirs in italics).

Unbeknown to us, these included pictures taken by David Hoffman which were still under copyright.

Several of the photos were marked clearly “Copyright David Hoffman”.

We have ended up paying him £4,000 for the use of these pictures rather than face legal action.

I spent months trying to get a friendly, cheap settlement. This was blocked by Freedom’s refusing to return the photos.

While this was a stupid mistake by us

It wasn’t a mistake, the collective meeting that decided to publish simply brushed aside the question of copyright. They still marked the book as THEIR copyright though.

it’s very disappointing that someone who claims to support anti-fascist politics and made money from their photographs

I support anti-racist and anti-fascist activism. I make no money from that. I make my money from photos of the far right and the police.

while enjoying protection from the far right on demonstrations

The left have never offered or given me protection on demos. I’ve never asked for it, wouldn’t want it.

should chose to extract money from a radical publisher for a genuine mistake

It wasn’t a mistake, it was a decision.

Freelance photographers covering protest have a hard time. Apart from the very long hours and physical dangers the rates we are paid have been dropping for years. It’s very hard to survive. Newspapers, mags and books now frequently use our work without payment or telling us. Between us, we’re losing hundreds of thousands. I work hard with my union and other groups to organise and support my colleagues in trying to recover some of that money. When we find infringements (we miss most) we take whatever action is needed to get paid.

When I stumbled on Freedom’s Beating The Fascists book my first feeling was disappointment. These are people I had thought to be on our side. They’d pillaged my life’s (36 years so far) work without even asking. They’d not credited me, they’d not even offered me a copy. But it was Freedom and so I didn’t just send in the dogs as I normally would. I went round to the shop to try to sort it out amicably.

When I saw the book (2/10/11) I was puzzled about where the pics had come from. Long story short, Anti-Fascist Action/Red Action had stolen them from another mag using a vulnerable worker there to assist them. Shameful, but not my business except for the prints which belonged to me, not the mag.

When I spoke to Andy Meinke at the shop I offered to settle for union rates and the return of my stolen prints. The prints were important, I didn’t want a repeat. As to the fee, I might well have given a bit of a discount too. We never got as far as discussing that because my attempts to have my stolen prints returned was blocked at every turn. Freedom spun that as me trying to get the “names of sources”. I’d had all the names within a couple of days, I was trying to get my prints is all.

This went on with me pestering Freedom and nothing happening. I asked one well known and trusted friend of Freedom’s to try and broker a settlement. He couldn’t and dropped out. Another mutual friend, well known and respected by Freedom, also tried without getting anywhere.

Still looking for a solution that didn’t involve the courts I brought in Trading Standards. They set up a meeting in May this year. Freedom finally produced what they promised was the complete file containing my prints. When I looked I saw that many prints had been removed, even prints that Freedom had previously scanned (so they must have had them) were not there. They had broken their word, still had my property and trying to get a cheap and fair deal for them had got me nowhere.

They had no interest in settling and I had wasted 8 months. There was nothing else to do. Freedom’s attitude was pretty much “We don’t care. What you gonna do about it?” Either I took the heavy legal route or I walked away. I’ve spent decades fighting for my rights and those of my fellow photographers. Walking away would be a betrayal. I prefer to avoid fights but if I must then I fight hard. It cost Freedom £4k, it didn’t have to.

I wish it had worked out better, it wasn’t down to a lack of effort on my part that it didn’t. Some of that cash has gone to good causes, more will follow. That’s really the best I can do.

There’s a lot more but I want to keep this short. Feel free to email me with questions.

David Hoffman


Black Flag group said...

If you're interested, some of Hoffman's allegations are dealt with in a libcom thread here:

Some other aspects are here:

Perhaps you could try asking Freedom members about it?

Ross Bradshaw said...

Hi Black Flag - I have emailed Freedom. If you reread my blog, you will see that my main concern was that only one side had their views in the public domain, and I have linked to Freedom's original article. I'll certainly look at these, though prior to posting I did read everything that was then on the net - which is when I realised that only one view was available.

Black Flag group said...

As a collective Freedom's decided not to comment, but there's a fairly long reply here:

Ross Bradshaw said...

There is further discussion on, by a supporter of David Hoffman and a member of the Freedom collective.