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posted by janrinok on Friday August 05, @11:52AM   Printer-friendly
from the has-anyone-seen-my-face? dept.

Who owns the rights to your face?:

Last year, I received an Instagram DM from someone I was friends with in college. It had been a couple years since we'd caught up: We lived in different cities, had pursued different careers and, of course, the pandemic had brought any plans of hanging out again to a standstill. I was surprised to see her name pop up on my screen but even more so by the contents of her message.

It was my face. Specifically, it was me in a sponsored Instagram Story ad, putting on a lip balm. In the video, I applied the balm and smiled at the camera, looking pleased with my newly moisturized lips. In real life, I was confused. I had never agreed to appear in a nationwide social campaign, otherwise my checking account would have a couple more zeroes to show for it. I worked in the media industry then, sourcing the right influencers to participate in sponsored articles. I've spent years casting with talent, negotiating contracts to ensure fair compensation and modest usage rights for influencers, models, and real people. Based on my experience, it was clear that my image was being exploited by a multibillion dollar brand.

Usage rights dictate who owns an image or asset, exactly how, where it's allowed to appear, and for how long: A video is pricier than a photo, one month costs more than one year, and you'd charge a global brand much more than what you'd charge a growing business. Depending on the talent, the scale of the client, and the length of the campaign, standard licensing of images on social media alone can cost anywhere from $250 to $20,000.

Despite this, anyone who has worked at a media company will tell you that employees are often pressured to serve as a stand-in or supplement to these influencers. However, these campaigns are not a part of the full-time job and likely go uncompensated.

[...] Generally speaking, we hold the copyright to any content we upload to social media platforms. However, when we create our accounts, we agree to grant those platforms a free license to use our content as they wish. Twitter's recent ad campaigns are a perfect example: the everyday thoughts of regular people are what fuel the platform, and the decision to feature those tweets in marketing has been widely applauded. But as a Twitter user myself, spotting my own words on the train ride home would feel great, until I remember that one month of subway ads can cost up to $75,000. But, based on the terms and conditions I agreed to, none of that money has to make its way to me.

Our content is even more valuable to brands, who are slowly narrowing in on the average social media user. Where large companies were once funneling most of their influencer marketing budget into one or two macro influencers with 500,000 followers or more, companies like HelloFresh and Canon are now prioritizing the niche audiences of micro- and nano-creators. Research shows that shoppers find smaller creators "more authentic" and brands have identified those creators as "less costly," making regular people a win-win for boosting sales.


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  • (Score: 2) by EvilSS on Friday August 05, @03:07PM (7 children)

    by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 05, @03:07PM (#1265110)
    We have publicity rights in the US. You can't use people's images in things like advertising or in other ways that give the impression that the subject is endorsing a product or service, without a signed release. If the person in the story is in the US, then they must have signed a release with their employer on the use of the photos, otherwise they would have a solid case to sue over their use in advertising.

    It's also a popular misconception that you can't use photos of people for any sort of monetization in the US. This isn't always true. For example, see the case of Arne Svenson: https://news.artnet.com/market/arne-svenson-neighbors-photographs-supreme-court-286916 [artnet.com]
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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Thexalon on Friday August 05, @04:42PM (6 children)

    by Thexalon (636) on Friday August 05, @04:42PM (#1265132)

    Regardless of the laws on the books, a common feature of US life is that lots of individuals and corporations routinely do things that could get them sued, banking on the fact that most of the time their victim(s) will not have the time, money, and willpower to hire a lawyer and actually follow through with the lawsuit. Add in that if you do your dirty deeds behind a corporate veil [wikipedia.org], you personally won't suffer any consequences whatsoever if you lose a lawsuit, and it often takes many years for a case to actually be decided so you've probably moved on to something else or successfully taken the money and run, it's a recipe for a relatively small number of unscrupulous people to do an awful lot of damage and get rich themselves while doing so. Alternately, if the person committing the violation doesn't have any assets to speak of, and a lot of people in the US don't, then it's distinctly possible that it won't be worth anybody's time to sue them.

    Oh, and one more thing: Corporations have included anti-class-action and binding arbitration clauses in many employment and consumer contracts that basically make it impossible to sue them under any circumstances. Instead, you can take them to private arbitration, where the private arbitration company is hired and paid by the corporation primarily based on their rate of ruling in favor of the corporation. So you can guess which way the arbitrators rule the vast majority of the time.

    The result of this mess is that civil law is always only somewhat in effect. And even criminal law is very variable about how much it will affect what happens in a situation.

    --
    Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
    • (Score: 2) by EvilSS on Friday August 05, @07:22PM (2 children)

      by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 05, @07:22PM (#1265155)
      Well in that case why did this person's job even exist? If, as you say, it is so easy for a company to violate the law, why hire a person to go out and recruit talent, get releases, and, actually pay them when they could just steal their images, Photoshop them, and sell them on to put in ads? Shit, why does any company follow any laws then?
      • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Friday August 05, @08:03PM (1 child)

        by Thexalon (636) on Friday August 05, @08:03PM (#1265170)

        Shit, why does any company follow any laws then?

        1. The risk of bad PR, which might shrink their customer base.
        2. If they go too far and haven't paid off all of the right people, they might end up having to deal with organized opposition or a government agency.

        --
        Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
        • (Score: 2) by EvilSS on Friday August 05, @10:10PM

          by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 05, @10:10PM (#1265181)
          You might want to try a slightly larger tinfoil hat my friend. Your current one is a bit too tight.
    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday August 06, @10:57AM (2 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday August 06, @10:57AM (#1265247) Journal

      Add in that if you do your dirty deeds behind a corporate veil, you personally won't suffer any consequences whatsoever if you lose a lawsuit

      The corporate veil isn't magic. Do actionable misdeeds that the plaintiff can prove and then you're on the hook not just the corporation.

      • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Saturday August 06, @12:40PM (1 child)

        by Thexalon (636) on Saturday August 06, @12:40PM (#1265251)

        Tell that to the Sackler family, who via Purdue Pharma got hundreds of thousands of people addicted to opioid drugs, many of which would die from overdoses because of that addiction, knew that was exactly what they were doing, and have gotten immunity from lawsuits over that. They made billions from pushing drugs, and have only had to give up a fraction of what they pulled in.

        Had they been one of the cartels, they would be in prison for life. But they did their crimes under the guise of a corporation, so they're completely fine.

        --
        Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday August 06, @06:19PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday August 06, @06:19PM (#1265321) Journal
          What would be the point? It remains true. Corporate veil isn't why litigants are having so much trouble getting stuff to stick to the Sacklers.