A lawsuit filed against Getty Images by an Irish woman has raised alarm bells in some blogging, news, and photography circles.
Sheldon Toplitt, over at the Unruly of Law blog reports on the case filed by Avril Nolan, who now lives in Brooklyn, and works in public relations. The lawsuit claims that a photo of Ms. Nolan taken by Jena Cumbo originally published as part of an online fashion spread, wound up being published in the April 3rd edition of amNew York as part of an ad for the New York State Division of Human Rights, with the caption “I am positive (+) [and] I have rights”.
Apparently, photographer Cumbo licensed the image to Getty Images as stock, and Getty licensed the image for the publication at issue.
The trouble is, Ms. Nolan is not HIV positive. Since she didn't sign a release, either with the photographer or with Getty, and never gave permission for the use of the photo, she claims her reputation ha suffered. Her lawsuit alleges defamation and civil rights violations stemming from the creation of a false impression about her. She's seeking $450,000 in damages.
The case highlights the important principle that, when it comes to photographs, a juxtaposition or a caption can create an actionable false impression. This kind of out-of-context depiction should be avoided however possible.
If you're a blogger, and you use images of real people, whether from a stock library, or those you've taken yourself, this is a point of concern. It's wise to understand the issue; wiser still to have an experienced entertainment and media lawyer perform legal review whenever there's the slightest question in your mind about something like this.
And, so you'll know when such questions can arise, pick up a copy of my e-book, The Podcast, Blog, & New Media Producer's Legal Survival Guide