You might think that if someone takes a photo of you, you have the right to post it to your own social media or use it as you see fit. But that is not correct. According to copyright law, the person who took the photograph, or their employer, usually owns the copyright in the photograph and has the exclusive rights, amongst other things, to publish it online or in print.
British singer Dua Lipa recently learned this the hard way when she was sued for damages by a photo agency after she shared one of their paparazzi photographs of her on her Instagram. The photo agency claimed that Dua Lipa unlawfully profited from the photo as her Instagram account is monetized and a marketing tool for her music.
Dua Lipa was not the first celebrity to be sued for posting photographs of themselves taken by paparazzi. Gigi Hadid, Khloe Kardashian and many others have faced similar lawsuits in recent years. What this means is that you need to purchase a licence to use someone else’s photograph – even if the photograph is of you!
It seems unfair that a photographer can profit from a photograph of an individual taken without their permission but the individual cannot do the same, even if they are the subject of the photo. But copyright doesn’t protect the image or personality rights of the subject of photographs, rather it protects the intellectual property rights of the copyright owner of the photograph, usually the photographer or their employer.
Copyright protection gives the owner the exclusive right to:
- reproduce the photos—for example, by making prints;
- publish the photo (make copies of the photos available to the public for the first time); and
- communicate the photo to the public—for example, by posting the photos online.
Even if a photograph of you has already been published online, you cannot repost the photograph on your own social media without a licence from the copyright owner.
In addition, photographers have “moral rights” in their photographs which are separate from the copyright. Moral rights, give the photographer the right to be attributed as the creator of the relevant photos.
The key takeaway is that you should always ask for permission from the copyright owner before posting or sharing a photograph of yourself that you come across online.
For assistance with obtaining copyright permission to use photographs or if you have any other copyright issues, Level Up Legal would be delighted to assist!