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Should I let a cable TV show use this photo for free?

Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope

Last week I received the following message regarding this photo of the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope), which I posted on Flickr in 2008:

ABC Studios is seeking permission to use some of your photographs of the Green Bank, WV Radio Telescope as incidental set dressing / props in an episode of “Perception.” The storyline includes scenes that take place in the Green Bank, W. VA area and we’d like to use the images to help establish our location, a local diner.

“Perception” centers on Dr. Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack), a neuroscientist who uses his outlook to help the government solve complicated cases. With knowledge of human behavior and an understanding of the mind, the professor uses lessons from his unique and odd perspective on the world.

We typically do not offer payment for images used as set decoration / props. It’s more for the fun of having one of your photos on an episode of Perception.

If you’re still interested, I will connect you with our clearance guy at ABC who will send you a materials release.

Should I let Perception use the photo?

Reasons for

  • It’s not as if I’m likely to make money on the photo any other way.
  • If I say no, rather than offer me money, the studio likely will just find someone else who will let them use his or her photo for free.
  • I have no clue if selling a photo would violate my contract with Aol. And I suspect the money I’d make from doing so wouldn’t even be worth the time spent investigating Aol’s policy.
  • Bragging rights from a swanky photo credit

Reasons against

  • Do I really need bragging rights about a show I’d never even heard of previously?
  • Maybe they will counter with a little money
  • ABC Studios is owned by Disney, which has a market cap of $134 billion and—spoiler alert—is significantly higher than my net work. I shouldn’t give it anything for free.

I’m leaning towards saying no, but am very interested in other people’s thoughts.

(Also, the argument to never do something for free because it hurts other people in the industry doesn’t hold much sway with me. There’s a time and a place where it may be advantageous for a person to work for free—and that’s up to each individual to determine.)

Anyway, please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

‘Inspirato’ magazine just published my final article as a freelancer. That it was about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail will not surprise you. But it will restore your faith in humanity. Or at least good Kentucky bourbon.

Inspirato, Spring 2014

Inspirato magazine’s spring 2014 issue included my final article as a freelancer. Titled, “Kentucky Gold,” fittingly it’s a feature on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Obligatory joke about how fun researching an article on bourbon is goes here ______________________ . Actually, it’s not a joke: it’s damn true.

Anyway, read the article on Inspirato’s website or enjoy the magazine’s hardcopy layout in this .pdf. Or, right now for a limited time, the spring 2014 issue is available for free on Inspirato’s website. The choice is yours.

I also contributed sidebars on Kentucky’s favorite bourbons, bourbon 101, the best pours from the Bluegrass State, and where to enjoy a drink or two in Louisville.

Inspirato with American Express is a private, members-only destination club. Its 180-page glossy magazine is published three times a year. It’s distributed to the club’s members, sold on newsstands, and available for iPads and Android tablets.

And thanks to Chea Beckley and Stephanie Greene at 21c Museum Hotel and Proof on Main for their assistance.

Photo: Courtesy Inspirato

Richard Marx (probably) sent me hate mail too

Richard Marx

Been meaning to share this story for a while:

In January 2010, Richard Marx pulled out of HullabaLOU, a music festival at Louisville’s Churchill Downs. Upon hearing the devastating news, I wrote an article for “Sorry Louisville, you don’t have Richard Marx to kick around anymore at HullabaLOU.” If you don’t feel like selecting the link, executive summary:  it wasn’t flattering to Mr. Marx.

My article led to hateful comments from Marx’s dedicated fans (since lost after switched its commenting system), as well as a nasty thread on a Richard Marx-dedicated online forum (since defunct, because of course).

About two weeks after I published the article, I received this email:

Zach..That last “anonymous” post wasn’t me [a commenter on claimed to be Marx], but…THIS is. Turns out, having zero to do with putting you in your place..whoever you are…I have these insanely loyal and protective fans who not only post online, but then alert this kind of mindless crap to the woman who runs my website (Yep, I do have one…makes me SO cool) and then I occasionally hear about it. I’ve weathered these kind of nasty attacks for over 20 years. Mostly by over-achievers like yourself, who have “Air Canada’s enRoute” as the headline of their resume.

I was actually looking forward to playing HullabaLOU but it was just one show and I was offered a tour in China that, while only 4 shows in country over 8 days, will compensate me in numbers that would fill you with even more envious rage than you already seem to possess, if that’s possible.

Oh, yeah..I’m also still really happily married to a kind and beautiful woman after 21 years; have 3 amazing sons who are great human beings; and I still not only tour and make my own records, but write and produce with a ton of great artists for their records. I love every second. I realize it’s not on par with being editor-in-chief of, but…

See, like or hate my music, I have, for 20 years plus, put myself out there and given 100% to my craft. I’m a pro. I never phone it in and I’ve never taken the 30 million records and slew of hits for granted. I wrote “Right Here Waiting,” which you denigrated, not to be a hit song, but a musical love letter to my wife years ago. Luckily my friends persuaded me to record it. People all over the world sing that song to each other. I just got a letter from a young lady whose husband was killed in Iraq and the lyrics to “RHW” were his screensaver. She wasn’t the first who told me stories like that.

So…upon looking at what’s available about you…and seeing your photo…dude, your photo is so grim…all I can assume about you is that you’re a bitter man who either never got a break, or never had the talent to deserve one.

Vivian will certainly grow up to be so proud.

Richard Marx

Vivian, by the way, is my daughter. Who was then not even 1 month old.

Using the sender’s email address,, I did some online research (I forget the specifics) that made it appear likely the email was in fact from Marx. It wasn’t conclusive enough though to share publicly.

Then, in January 2013, published “Richard Marx hates my guts” by Edward McClelland. The subhead:

I made a snarky comment about the 1980s soft-rock balladeer on my blog. And now he won’t leave me alone. Really.

Well call me a hipster: I got hate mail from Richard Marx before it was cool.

Photo: Flickr/skyobrienpics