Pop Star Dua Lipa is being sued by Integral Images, Inc. for posting a paparazzi photo of herself on Instagram. Integral Images is seeking $150,000 in damages and alleges that Dua shared the image, taken in February 2019, without its permission. Other high-profile celebrities, such as Khloé Kardashian, Justin Bieber, Amy Schumer, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Lopez, Gigi Hadid, and Liam Hemsworth have been involved in similar lawsuits. But it’s not just celebrities who can get caught up in a copyright dispute over social media photos. You may be violating a photographer’s copyright on your own social media without even knowing it.
Common Misconceptions About Photographic Rights
Copyright prevents individuals—other than the creators of original works—from using or profiting off of images that they don’t own. Copyright law usually means that a photographer, not the subject of a photograph, owns the rights to the image. As soon as a photographer captures a photograph, he or she has created an original work. Photographers have the exclusive right to reproduce, display, distribute, and create derivatives of any image they capture.
Many people think that simply being in a photograph entitles them to “joint copyright” of the image, but that is not the case. The subject of the photograph has little to do with the ownership of the copyright in the photograph. Even if you paid a photographer, you may not necessarily own the resulting images. If you’d like to own the photographs another person takes of you, you must enter into a work-for-hire arrangement. This arrangement must be explicitly stated in a contract or employment agreement.
Another common misconception is that a poster who gives the creator credit when posting the image somehow relieves themselves of copyright infringement. Only the photographer’s permission relieves a poster of copyright infringement. So, if your best friend takes a picture of you at a party, the safe thing to do is ask for their permission before posting the photo anywhere.