Three years ago, I was sitting on my patio with Grandma Phyllis, enjoying a beautiful afternoon during a Michigan summer.
We shared jokes, family stories, and laughed, so I snapped this candid photo and shared it on Pinterest:
I never expected to see a photo that perfectly embodied the love and admiration I have for my grandmother, turn into an anti-wrinkle ad.
The link provided in the post directed me to a “yoga facelift” blog in the United Kingdom.
Not only have I never practiced yoga for my face (whatever that may be), I have never once heard of the website using my image to gain new customers.
So the journalist in me started to do some digging. I uploaded my photo to Google Images and searched for where else this picture could have ended up…
Pinterest boards titled “Youth Serum,” “Yoga Exercise,” and “Smile Therapy” all had my photo, selling something neither my grandmother nor I had any affiliation with.
What made matters worse was the girl’s photo next to mine on the Pinterest board. She must have been at least ten years younger than me, yet they were using her image to sell “DIY” facelifts.
While I couldn’t locate the girl in the photo, I put her picture through Google Images, too, and was shocked to find her face all over the Internet.
Her picture was used to promote a company in Puerto Vallarta, and a girls empowerment conference in New York. It also showed up for an Oregon church, but the website’s manager has since removed the unattached stock photo from the site. He says it came with the WordPress design theme, along with many other photos.
The lines of copyright laws are a little blurry, but it is illegal for companies toprofit from your photos without your permission.
In a recent New York Times article, Eric Goldman, a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property, said:
“One of the questions that we run into online is, ‘What is the line between advertising and editorial content?’” Goldman said. “If the brand is publishing the content online, odds are that it’s going to be considered an advertisement.”
In a world where sharing personal photos online is commonplace, it gives companies and businessmen and women the idea that they can use them for their own gain, without your permission.
According to legal experts interviewed by the Times, “the person featured in a photo may own the publicity rights, which may give the individual control over the commercial use of his or her likeness..” The bottom line is this: whoever takes the photo holds the copyright.
“We are seeing this more and more because so many people are growing up in a time when there’s a sense that you can share imagery that’s out there,” James Silverberg, an intellectual-property lawyer who works with American Photographic Artists further explained to the Times.
Furthermore, Section 107 of the Copyright Act states:
“In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”
While taking legal action might be dubbed a “waste of time” for a case like mine, especially involving an entity that’s not in the U.S., I’m hoping my experience can shed light on an issue that many people might not know they have.
As for Grandma Phyllis and me?
We’d choose laugh lines and wrinkles over yoga facelifts any day.
Read more at: liftbump.com