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How A Supermodel’s Post Could Influence Copyright and Photo Law

a supermodel who could be influencing copyright and photo law

So, you may have missed this lawsuit filed over the summer, Summer 2019, and it was an interesting one in the world of copyright and photo law. Gigi Hadid who, of course, is a famous supermodel, was sued for copyright infringement. And here a couple little details.

Background of the lawsuit

A paparazzi company filed the lawsuit and claimed copyright over a photograph of Hadid.

The photographer took the photo of her as she was exiting a building. Instead of hiding her face or running away, she smiled and posed and of course the cameras clicked away. Well, when she saw the photograph, she liked it, cropped it, posted it to her Instagram account, and, of course, that’s what caused the copyright infringement allegations and lawsuit. She stopped and smiled and posed for this photo — which is her profession. And then was sued for using it.

Well the judge threw out the lawsuit because you have to have a registered copyright in order to file a lawsuit, and the paparazzi company hadn’t registered the photograph in time to file the lawsuit. (Silly mistake.)

How this situation could influence copyright and photo law

The question is this: Is it infringement for a professional model to post a photo of herself that she did not own where the photograph wasn’t candid and she had actually participated in the creation of this photo?

Before the suit was dismissed, her lawyers alleged fair use and implied license. “Implied license” means that somehow, the photographer granted Hadid permission to use the photo because she participated in creating it. (That’s a toughie.)

We won’t know, of course, whether these arguments would pass muster in a lawsuit since the lawsuit was thrown out. But maybe another celebrity could make this argument. “Because the subject participated in creating this photo, there was some kind of joint-ownership or joint-creation by the celeb/subject. And, thus, no copyright infringement.” Now that could really change copyright and photo law.

I want to be clear that I’m not talking about your ordinary session. (One with a couple or a family or children.) That’s different. What we’re talking about here is the context of photos taken in public, by paparazzi, of a celebrity who just happens to pose and, arguably, aid in the creation of photos.

The judge dismissed the case, so we’ll never know what might’ve been. Still, it’s interesting to think about what might happen in the future for a similar case under similar circumstances.

What’s that? Free info? Yes, please. Click below to learn four things you can do right now to protect your business online. 

Why Using Photos from the Internet is Usually a Bad Idea

Using photos from the internet can be such a source of headache. By the end of this post, you’re going to understand why it’s probably not a good idea to use images that you found on Google Image Search or Pinterest in connection with your business, and what you might do instead.

Common misconception: a lot of folks think that images that you find on Google Image Search or on Pinterest are in the public domain, or free of copyright, or free to use, and that could not be further from the truth.

Google catalogs images from everywhere, all kinds of different websites without regard to copyright ownership. So by using an image from Google Image Search or from Pinterest, you don’t know just by looking at the image whether it’s protected under copyright law, and you certainly don’t know whether you have permission from the owner to use it. In fact, I would assume that you don’t.

The issue is copyright, which of course speaks to who owns the photo or who owns the image, but also “right of publicity.” And remember, that right of publicity is an individual’s right to control how their name, image, and likeness is used for a commercial or business purpose. So whoever it is that appears in that image might not want their name, image, or likeness used in connection with your business purpose. 

What to do Instead of Using Photos from the Internet

If using photos from the internet can get you into trouble, what other options do you have? Well, there are plenty of reputable stock photo websites out there, some of which say “here are do-whatever-you-want-with-them photos” sometimes those sites have strings attached, so maybe it’s “do- whatever-you-want-with-them” photos… so long as you give credit or attribution.

Sometimes the photos can be used for personal use, but if you want to use it in connection with a business then you have to pay an extra license fee. 

So make sure and read the fine print, read the Terms of Use for those stock photo sites to make sure that you’re using them and compliance with their rules their license terms.

That is a much better option than using images from Pinterest or from Google Image Search.

What’s that? Free info? Yes, please. Click below to learn four things you can do right now to protect your business online. 

A Legal Checklist for Selling on Etsy

Etsy is the first place that pops into mind when I want to find a special gift or something created by a small business owner. Want to open up shop yourself? This month’s blog post introduces Spear IP’s Essential Legal Checklist for Selling on Etsy.

Here’s a brief description of the topics you should expect from the Essential Legal Checklist for Selling on Etsy.

Business Structure

A lot of folks find themselves weighing the pros and cons of sole proprietorship versus something more structured, like a limited liability company. This list has some factors that could sway you one way or the other.

Tax and Licenses

You know e-commerce and the collection of sales tax was a hot topic with The Supremes last summer. Have you determined when and where you need to charge sales tax, if at all? What about a business license?

Trademark

By now you know a trademark is that brand name that everyone knows you by. The Essential Legal Checklist for Selling on Etsy walks you through a few general trademark considerations (and some Etsy-specific considerations).

Copyright

Copyright law governs not only your typical creative works, but some not-so-typical creative works. Registering with the Copyright Office, getting your contracts in place, and using contractors are all topics that are covered in this legal checklist for selling on Etsy.

Photographs and Artwork

Copyright and right of publicity are two different things. (Remember the client query, “A celebrity is wearing my brand“?) This checklist will make you think through using photographs and artwork properly.

Policies and E-Commerce

It’s hard to hold a customer to a return policy if you haven’t posted that return policy. Posting policies and truthful descriptions of products are both things to consider when opening up shop on Etsy.

And there you have it. Get the Essential Legal Checklist for Selling on Etsy here.

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Client Query: A Celebrity Is Wearing My Brand

a celebrity is wearing my brand

“Client Query” is a brief segment in which a common client question is broken down and answered. This month, Spear IP tackles that “OMG” moment… “A celebrity is wearing my brand!”

Continue reading “Client Query: A Celebrity Is Wearing My Brand”

Proper Use of Client Materials in Marketing

Proper Use of Client Materials in Marketing

The ability for a client to view your portfolio is of utmost importance in client-facing industries. (Looking at you, event planning, graphic design, web design, and photography). One often assumes that she has free reign in posting clients’ projects for all to see. But, that is not necessarily the case. This post touches on some legal hurdles that apply to the proper use of client materials and the “quick fixes” that might save you from legal headaches when marketing your business.

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Photos, Smartphones, & Copyright

Photos smartphones and copyright

Have you ever stopped to think about our camera-phone culture?

We take so many pictures. Social media, and Instagram in particular, has made each of us into an amateur photographer. What will you do this weekend? Go to a pumpkin patch and photograph the pumpkins? Snap photos of the bride and groom dancing at a wedding? Post a picture of your Bloody Mary at brunch? Continue reading “Photos, Smartphones, & Copyright”

Ode to a Fantasy Football Team

Ode to a Fantasy Football Team

Ah, [Fantasy] Football Season. Everyone is glued to a television screen (or three). Everyone is an NFL franchise owner. Everyone has proverbial skin in, well, every game. Today’s post is dedicated to you, fantasy football fan.

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