Sometimes, the law does come down on the side of the photographer. The fight might’ve been bitter, bloody, and protracted but a young photographer has just reminded a porn peddler from Texas that you can’t use someone else’s image for commercial gain unless you’ve come to some sort of agreement with her or him.
Back in 2006 a 14 year old Lara Jade Coton snapped a self-portrait showing her in a black ballgown and top hat—all rather tasteful—and submitted it, and a few others, to Flickr. That’s not so unusual. How many of us have self-portraits on Flickr? A little bit more unusual, though, might be finding that your image is being used to market a pornographic DVD.
In the grand copyright scheme of things, whether or not the image was being used on a pornographic DVD is probably neither here nor there (although I am intrigued by the implications of using an image of a minor), just that the image was being used commerically without permission from the photographer or model. Doing what I’m sure anyone else would do, Coton wrote to the producers (TVX) and requested that they stop using her image. They were less that co-operative. There’s a surprise.
Would our young photographer give up because a nasty man sent her a nasty email? Of course not. Granted, it did take three years of legal wrangling but finally Coton was awarded $129,173.20 in damages. It wasn’t quite the $434,000 that she sought, but hopefully it’ll make people think twice about using people’s photographs commercially without permission.