With new and evolving technology, photography is more accessible now than ever before. With an increase in digital and social media usage over the past decade, there has been a parallel increase in online visual content. The amassing of images on the web has been a proponent of many legal battles concerning the copyright of certain images.
Case Study: Rachel Scroggins is an established fashion and portrait photographer based in New York City. Over the past few decades, she has shot at a myriad of runway shows and has a client list of popular fashion icons and texts such as Oscar de la Renta and Elle Magazine. She actively posts visuals for Oscar de la Renta’s social media accounts, like many emerging photographers. However, the capstone moment in her career occurred behind-the-scenes at a runway show. Scroggins snapped a photo of model Karlie Kloss mid-selfie and posted it to her blog. Just days later, Kloss naively reposted the image, sans photo credit, to her Instagram account – which has over 7k followers and up to 15k users who actively ‘like’ her posts. That is thousands of users who saw and ‘liked’ the image, but never got to see the credit of the rightful photographer behind the image. Acknowledging Scroggins in the post could’ve lead to many opportunities for magazines and publishers to pay Scroggins for her work; however, that image is now distributed – uncredited – virtually everywhere online and will be impossible to track and get compensated for.
Apologies don’t make up for thousands of dollars of hard-earned money, and although Kloss wasn’t deceptive in her actions, she instigated a never-ending copyright battle that Scroggins will never be able to escape. As an aspiring photographer myself, I understand the complications with not immediately copyrighting my images when they are posted online. I run my own photography business and have experienced many instances where my customers and peers post my images as their new profile image without crediting me. Every picture my clients have used has amassed the largest number of likes – comparative to their other posts – and it is extremely disappointing to know that I lost potential views and customers for my business because I wasn’t properly credited. Young photographers need to reevaluate business strategies earlier on to establish a sense of professionalism and get the credit they deserve.
The moral of the story is to be careful about what you post. Copyright your precious material because who knew that a selfie could be worth so much money?