The Ugly Truth about The Color Run

This morning I read a post on Facebook that was shared from fStopper. What I read was so infuriating that I posted it in my LinkedIn Group Photography Business (over 17,000 members now) and I am also posting it everywhere else. And… I ask you to do the same.

We’ve discussed many times how some companies and people think that they are entitled to photography for free. This is the worst case I have seen yet and because of the aggressive and bullish nature of this case people have to be called out by name.

The infringer and how they describe themselves.: “The Color Run,was  founded in January of 2012 as an event to promote healthiness and happiness by bringing the community together to participate in the “Happiest 5k on the Planet”. We are the original paint race and have created a completely new genre of running events that continues to grow exponentially.”

fstoppers reports: Maxwell Jackson went to one of The Color Run events in Miami in 2012 with some friends from his photography club at Florida Atlantic University, where he is still a student. He photographed the event and posted the images online. He was then approached by Scott Winn, who identified himself as the Photo Director of The Color Run. Winn asked Jackson for permission to use his photos on their Facebook page and said that they would even give him “photo credit wherever (his) photos are used.” As a new photographer, Jackson felt this would be a great way to get some exposure. “I was a new photographer and this amazing new company was offering to feature MY photos on THEIR page!” Who would have thought that would take a tun for the worse.

You will not believe what happened next. Maxwell finds his image published on an advertising flyer, and used in The Color Run’s ad’s all over the world and in several newspapers. When the photographer investigates and asks for payment he is in for the surprise of his life.

Travis Lyman Snyder, owner and founder of The Color Run, answers and said that he “would rather spend $500,000 on lawyers than be extorted by (Jackson).” And promptly they sue the photographer for  trademark infringement. Photography college student Maxwell Jackson is not just not getting screwed by The Color Run for the unauthorized use of his images but also has to defend himself in the court of Utah against this (can I say idiotic?) lawsuit.

Maxwell has to figure out how to defend himself and pay for legal counsel. He has started a GoFundMe Campaign. My favorite part on this is his Dad who did a YouTube video explaining what has happened. The story will blow your mind.

YouTube Preview Image

So here is what we can do. Because one thing is clear we need to do something. Quick reminder: we are professional community. Let’s keep our language and our actions non-threatening and focus on on the support of Maxwell. He really needs our help here and our goal should be very simple:

Drop the lawsuit against Maxwell Johnson, apologize, reimburse his expenses, and pay him fair use for the images The Color Run used.

In the meantime:

  • Please tell everyone in your circles who likes them – to unlike The Color Run’s Facebook page, and to unfollow them on Twitter.
  • Tell all your runner friends to spread the word throughout the running communities and to boycott all races or withdraw until this is settled.
  • Post the link to whatever article that represents your disdain with situation. Call out The Color Run throughout every photographer forum.
  • If you were planning to do so – do not cover any The Color Run event and discourage other photographers to do the same. Tell your writer friends that their work could be  infringed next and to drop all coverage but rather report on the bullish behavior that is in direct contrast to The Color Run’s ‘happiness statement’ on their website.

Do what you can to make this incident worst public relations incident that CEO Travis Snyder has to deal with. Saving a couple thousand dollars so he can force a kid into submission will hopefully be the stupidest and most costly decision he ever made. And perhaps this will finally get his attention and he’ll realize that he is out of line.

Note: The ability to comment on their Facebook already has been taken down. But you still can send a message. They do have a company LinkedIn page, you can comment on that as well. If you find out anything else, feel free to post in the comments.

Thank you, let’s go help this kid out.

Your coach



  1. Lando says

    Before you blindly start bullying the company – please take a look at Maxwell William Jackson’s Facebook page. Ask him if he paid for all the color run shirts he is wearing in his photos, or if he worked for the event for some time after this photo was supposedly used without permission.

  2. says

    Lando, I suspect that you are associated with The Color Run and have set up an anonymous email just to respond to this post. Do you think that a T-Shirt is fair compensation for using images in advertising? Do you barter your work in exchange for T-Shirts?

  3. Lando says

    I suspected that there was more to the story, which there was. Mr. Jackson had conveniently left out a lot of information. Now that he has updated his story and admitted that he worked several color run events.

    I also suspect that he has NOTHING to lose by creating this huge mess for a company that he agreed to work for at one time. It seems like he was fine with his photo being used UNTIL he no longer worked there.

    And crazy dad video? Seriously, the company clearly states in many places that it is for-profit. This isn’t a conspiracy. It is no secret who Travis Lyman Snyder is or what he has to do with the run. It is no secret what Silverback does. Look at the websites. Go to an Ironman event, you’ll see Silverback people setting up and taking town, just like they do at many events.

    Encouraging a PR nightmare when all you had was a one sided story, borrowed from another website, is absolutely irresponsible for someone claiming to be a “BizCoach”. You’re just looking for a PR whirlwind to drive traffic to your own site. Sad.

  4. says

    I just posted on our tri club but the post was removed. Our club had over 500 members some of them photographers. Not sure why they choose to remove the link.I will take the time and write the company as well. Last year a major credit card company held back fund from a small business. Many of their customers started writing the bank and 2 weeks later the small business had their money. Let’s start writing

  5. says

    Hi Jessica,
    Thank you for your comment. The Color Run did contact me last night while I was out on a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders. I have told them that I will issue their response. Of course there is always another side to the story. There is also a difference between suing someone for Trademark Infringement and not paying someone for the fair value of their work. This is still very much a story.

  6. says

    Lando, … there is always another side to the story. The question is what is that story? Only through a lot of pressure do come all facts to light. And that happened after my story broke yesterday. More facts came to light because a firestorm errupted. Now we see if Max really made these demands and what his side is. The truth or the solution to this mess will be in the middle. And please do not assume to know what my intentions are, just ask and I will tell you. I happen to have built a large following and it took me years to do so. You don’t get where I am unless you have something of substance to say. But… you are entitled to your opinion.

  7. Chante says

    Over the last two days, myself and some of my Facebook friends have posted criticism of their actions towards Maxwell Jackson, and then this morning when they then decided to copy-and-paste the same message on people’s critical posts with the Color Run version of events and folks responded with counter-argument, we’ve all had our comments deleted and our access to their FB page blocked- hardly the position of a company claiming to be reasonable- even if the $300K was indeed demanded by Jackson for his work, given that Color Run only contributes 2% of run revenue to charity, but gets exposure and therefore 98% of people’s revenue nationally and internationally (where Jackson’s photos have been used), Color Run is running all the way to the bank, but I, and my friends and colleagues, will NOT be running in their events!

  8. Chante says

    and now this, posted in response to another friend’s post that questioned why her own friends’ comments were deleted and then blocked: “Hi Oreke, commenters who use offensive language have to be hid from our wall as we are a family oriented business.. ” but as she herself responded, and as I have witnessed myself, NONE of their comments used offensive language but merely stated that they would either: 1. no longer participate in Color Run events; 2. encourage friends, family, and colleagues to no longer support; or 3. that their actions were “shameful” and/or “dishonest” …

    Oreke’s response: “I know that to be TOTALLY FALSE! The comments posted here were just CRITICAL of your actions, absolutely ZERO OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE was used!! You just deleted comments that were contrary to your own! I bet I can find “shameful”, “deceitful”, and “dung” referenced in the Bible and every other “family-oriented” religious text in history!” (I think her use of the term “dung” was not in fact used, but simply her sarcasm!)

  9. says

    Thank you Chante for your comments. I agree that The Color Run has handled this very, very poorly. If I was them I’d hire a damage control specialist. They must have been overwhelmed by the response and just don’t have a plan how to manage this PR nightmare properly. They are making this worse.

  10. Michelle Fitzwater says

    I appreciate how well your story was written. I have shared on my personal page and photography page. I have a VERY hard time believing that the Color Run organization would have a hard time paying triple what has been asked. Obviously they see the value of the photographs… I am a photographer, I recently had someone steal my pictures for their use. If you like the pictures, just pay for them. Photographers actually really do deserve money for work. Shocking I know. I see myself making the choice “Not” to run in color….

  11. Rikki says

    Hi Beate, I am an FB friend of Chante who actually referenced me above! I too have now been blocked and all my comments deleted, especially those that highlighted that Color Run had been deleting/blocking critical comments- this practice is pathetic and truly reflects their motivation and integrity (or complete lack of it). This is the text of both a post, and then a message to them, after which they blocked me having replied with a ‘the matter has now been resolved’ statement.

    Conversation started Sunday
    Oreke Mosh
    16/02/2014 12:02
    Oreke Mosh
    from my email notifications under my post questioning why you are deleting comments then blocking posters, you replied because they were “offensive” to your “family-oriented business”- which of these were?!
    Chen Ruizhen: “Because it reflects poorly on them, so they try to cover it up as quickly as possible ” THIS COMMENT WAS DELETED!
    Nathan Hess: “No offensive language here. Watch this get deleted (this will be the third time I’ve posted this link):” THIS COMMENT WAS DELETED!
    Mike Killian: “None of the comments had offensive language, they just don’t want the public to know how shady their organization is, I have screen grabs of the comments made that were later deleted to prove it” THIS COMMENT WAS DELETED!
    David McEnulty wrote: “hahaha a family oriented business that steals and then, when caught, tries to intimidate the victim of the theft!” THIS COMMENT WAS DELETED!
    Echo Xane: “LOL you care so much about this important issue you’re limiting your self to copy pasta responses. More importantly, you pretend he deserves it. You are so desperate at this point to discredit him that any slander you make against him is totally self serving and cannot, and should not, be considered valid or trust worthy. You want this to go away, pay Maxwell what you owe him, including court fees, it’s time to put up or shut up. #Shame_on_Color_Run.” THIS COMMENT WAS DELETED!
    Bismo Funyuns: “Color run is obvious a shady company, that likes to steal from broke college kids.” THIS COMMENT WAS DELETED!
    Zeta Daniels: here you can see the erased posts. you can see there is no offensive languange. sorry Color Run but you can hide nothing. Streisand effect is coming. THIS COMMENT WAS DELETED!
    Aldo Timi Raines: “yes they are deleting critical comments. I saw several earlier that had no foul language that are no longer here. They are trying to paint themselves as the victims” THIS COMMENT WAS DELETED!

  12. Rikki says

    they then sent me this link (but with no ability for me to respond!) stating the matter has been resolved- I’d really like to hear Maxwell’s version instead of a forwarded copy of the founder’s message attached:

  13. says

    Hi Rikki,
    Since I published the story I have been in touch with both, Max and The Color Run. The matter is indeed now resolved. It took them 48 hours after a firestorm broke out to resolve the issue. Both made mistakes. We learn from it. Due to your and so many other photographers involvements this has been amicably resolved. Job accomplished. Let’s move on.

  14. Kyle Medina says

    First before anyone goes to bully on twitter and else where. Please do yourself some good and do a little of research. This “photobizcoach” Beate Chelette is whats wrong with media these days. Miss informed individual and now miss informing the public. The fact their is no mention of the ridiculous demands by Max. He contacted Color Run first with question. They offered financial compensation and photo credit. Max denied the offer than and demand $100k (which rose to $300k) and un-realistic demands of photo credit. And ended with words of if not contacted in 15 days then they will take legal action. When somebody uses demands like that, it for forces color run to put up their defense. And its make it clear it has gone outside the realm of being professional. All this can be found in the legal fillings of the case. Do NOT support Max or Color Run on either side of THIS debate both have acted un-proffesional. And to you Beate Chelette please do research before making your stand on this situation and telling your community to follow your orders. Thanks and Good Day.

  15. says

    Nice rant Kyle…
    There have been three different blog posts about the story. If you would have done your homework you would have seen that at the time I broke the story on my blog The Color Run had not made a statement yet. I had contacted The Color Run directly and informed them that I was posting this story and that it would probably blow up big – and it did. Subsequently they issued a statement a few hours later and informed me that they had done so. I ran their side of the story and informed Max about it and warned him that he can expect critique on the way he handled it. I mean, the kid is 19, okay! On the second day, a short 48 hours later BOTH parties contacted me to tell me that a settlement had been made (and to thank my tribes pressure to settle this rather sooner than later) and each sent me links to their final statements which I both posted. In my final post I withdrew my call for the boycott of The Color Run.

  16. says


    I can not begin to express my thanks to you #photobizcoach – the photog blogs #fstoppers #petapixel and the power of the #froknowsphoto podcast and later videos. Thank you all so so much for ending this 7 months Adventure with Maxwell William Jackson and me, his dad. YOURE AN AMAZING COMMUNITY WITH DIVERSE OPINIONS WHICH KEPT ME SMILING FOR DAYS, AND FOR YEARS TO COME.

    With your community of professionals, amateurs, and newby’s – the comments were so amazing to read that I tried to respond to the intelligent questions, but am sorry if I missed anyone there was such and overwhelming amount of information.

    I would like to also separately thank Daniel Morel for his personal support of Max and I in this fight prior to it hitting the Internet, Daniel you inspired Maxwell in such a big way, and you are also the sole reason this will never wind up in a Courtroom!

    Max did great, in my opinion! He held his head high and stood up for this industry perhaps like no one else could have, because he had nothing to fear, despite those who think the contrary. The Color Run is requesting dismissal of the case against Max and Max will dismiss his claims against TCR from the Courts. This will soon be History, but on the promise of TCR, counsel Michael Ward, I have removed my Video in good faith last night at 4 am est. as promised in the video for those who had seen it.

    Michael Ward, the General Counsel for TCR also deserves a round of applause because as an individual and an attorney he was a pleasure to work with, restoring my faith in lawyers actually, he is a one in 300,000 cuz one in a million is a bit over speculation.

    Thanks again to all Eric Jackson, Max’s PapaBear

  17. says

    Thanks Eric for taking the time to write the note to our community. It is very much appreciated. We are all thrilled that this worked out for everyone’s benefit.