Photographers survive off their ability to sell their work. They should receive compensation regardless of who they’re licensing images to: a magazine, a book publisher, a video game company, a couple getting married, or media outlet. But amazingly, huge media companies are currently using images from photographers across the country without sending them a penny.
The companies doing this are primarily Internet “news” sites. We use the term “news” very liberally here, as much of what they’re publishing is tabloid and clickbait. Clickbait refers to article headings and previews that have the sole purpose of driving people to a website, regardless of how important, unsavory, or misleading the content is.
So what are these companies doing? They are going through photos posted by photographers on Instagram to find those that will help them grab people's attention. Traditionally, when a company finds an image they would like to use, they contact the photographer to acquire permission to use the image. Typically this permission comes with an agreed upon licensing payment. But less scrupulous companies are simply presenting the images by way of embedding despite Instagram’s very clear directive that the photographers own their own photos.
Embedding involves the companies’ placing code on their website that “causes an image to be displayed” by way of Instagram. So basically the image is stored on Instagram where the photographer uploaded it, but the company is showing the image as if it is their own. The photographer receives zero compensation or benefit.
These companies are hiding behind Instagram using a technicality. It’s a backdoor way to avoid the Copyright Act, and that’s simply wrong. So Duncan Firm attorney James Bartolomei is representing a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer whose work was stolen in this manner. In fact, this photographer explicitly denied the company permission to use her photograph, and the company ignored her wishes. We hope we’ll be able to find justice for this artist, and in doing so strengthen law for other photographers and content creators.