Photographer’s lawsuit makes former model “terrified” of posting on Instagram
Many photographers have sued celebrities for posting their photos on social media without permission and credit. One of them sued former supermodel and current writer Paulina Porizkova last year. And now she says she says she’s “terrified” of posting on Instagram.
“One reason I’ve been posting a lot of self generated [sic] content lately is because I’m terrified,” Porizkova wrote in a recent Instagram post. “Of what, you may wonder? Of getting sued. Again.”
The ex-supermodel explains that, last year she posted about “the horrors in Ukraine” and used photos she found on Instagram to “illustrate the story.” Six months later, a law firm sued her on the behalf of the photographer whose photos she took.
“I had used his photo without his approval or without paying for usage,” Porizkova admits. And interestingly enough, she goes on to complain about being sued because of this. I wonder what she’d expected after using a photo without permission, credits, and compensation. But anyway…
“Until that point, I didn’t even realize this was a thing- reposting photos from the internet being illegal,” she continues. This reminds me of a certain “entrepreneur” we wrote about earlier.
“My images are used all the time, and unless someone is trying to sell something with the images, I thought this was fine. It turns out it’s not. There are law firms that do nothing but scour social media for dummies like myself who have enough followers to pay up.”
She’s not wrong though; there are law firms that only do this kind of work… But they don’t do it just because someone is a “social media dummy,” but because photographers deserve to be at least credited.
Porizkova says that they settled out of court. “I did use an unauthorized photo – even if it was carrying on the message I thought the photographer was trying to make – that war is evil,” she writes. “And boy, did that turn out to be an expensive mistake!”
The photographers’ reactions
You could’ve probably concluded from my tone by now that I’m not exactly siding with Porizkova. And that’s how some of the other photographers reacted to her post. “We photographers need to be payed for our work, no way around it,” Giovanni Allievi wrote. “You say you value artists work so you should know the matter. Do you believe newspapers use photos for free because ‘they carry on the message’? Really?”
“You can only post content to Instagram that doesn’t violate someone else’s intellectual property rights. The best way to help make sure that what you post to Instagram doesn’t violate copyright law is to only post content that you’ve created yourself.”
Photographer Ashly Leonard Stohl explained it pretty well and with great kindness in her comment:
I am a huge fan of what you post here, and hopefully, as a photographer, I can add to the conversation in the comments. The copyright of an image belongs to the photographer the moment the image is taken, unless a contract states otherwise. If we are talking about photographs of Ukraine in wartime, then that would be a photojournalist who is risking their life to go take those pictures. They may be taking them for an agency, or they may be funding the project themselves and paying their way to take these pictures at considerable expense and danger. The image would then be licensed or either exclusive or non exclusive use. So a person with a platform such as yourself posting an image violates both the copyright of the original image, but may also violate a licensing contract.
If a photographer posts an image to their social media and you share their post to your story, that’s one thing, but it’s another to put the images in your post. It’s just good practice to ask before sharing a photographer’s work in your own post. Photographers do not and should not work for free. Years of expertise and knowledge go in to every image.
On the other hand, some fellow photographers defended Porizkova for sharing the image. Joel Ellis Brown wrote:
“That’s ridiculous. I’m a photographer and I post some of my photos online. I would never stoop to suing someone for using one without my permission. I might ask them to take it down. And I do not make a lot of money….I just don’t believe in scamming people for money. Sounds like he was taking advantage of your celebrity to make an easy buck.”
She may not be wrong, either. There are some folks hunting high and low for opportunities to sue, even when they’re not in the right (cough… Fruškać… cough, cough). After all, the photographer can always ask for the removal of the photo before slapping someone with a lawsuit, but that’s just my two cents. Either way, Porizkova did infringe the copyright, no argument about that. But rather than being “terrified,” perhaps just learn how copyright works and not post someone else’s photos?
Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.