You Have To Pay Attention

If you want to post stuff all over the internet: Use My Photo? Not Without Permission

One moment, Alison Chang, a 15-year-old student from Dallas, is cheerfully goofing around at a local church-sponsored car wash, posing with a friend for a photo. Weeks later, that photo is posted online and catches the eye of an ad agency in Australia, and Alison appears on a billboard in Adelaide as part of a Virgin Mobile advertising campaign.

Four months later, she and her family are in Federal District Court in Dallas suing for damages.

[…] Chang v. Virgin Mobile USA is not the typical intellectual property rights case. A prolific member of Flickr, Mr. Wong has more than 11,000 photographs there that anyone with the time or inclination could page through. And, until recently, those photographs carried a license from Creative Commons, a nonprofit group seeking alternatives to copyright and license laws. The license he selected allowed them to be used by anyone in any way, including for commercial purposes, as long as Mr. Wong was credited.

Instead, the case hinges on privacy, the right of people not to have their likeness used in an ad without permission. So, while Mr. Wong may have given away his rights as a photographer, he did not, and could not, give away Alison’s rights. In the lawsuit, which Mr. Wong is also a party to, there is an argument that Virgin did not honor all the terms of the nonrestrictive license.

See also Online job hunters grapple with misuse of personal data (pdf); related Facebook warned on safety claims (pdf)