Case in Point

Model for Disaster

Most recently, cc has been criticized for lacking a standard model release form that would be compatible with some of its licenses. Despite being used by commercial photographers the world over, it still does not supply the proper authorization forms to publicly display a person’s image in a commercial format.  

In late September, a lawsuit was brought in Texas when a 16-year-old girl named Alison Chang discovered her photo was being used in an ad campaign for Virgin Mobile Australia. The photo was taken in a public place by a friend, who then posted the picture on Flickr, a Web site that allows photographers the option of CC-licensing. Alison claims that she never granted permission for anyone to use the photo. For his part, photographer Justin Wong said there was inadequate instruction on the Web site on how to properly grant a commercial license for the photo. Legal action was taken by both parties and the case is currently wending its way to court.

Steven Zalewski, a commercial litigator in New York, says, “The simplification of CC’s language is the root of its complexity. The more you take a complicated concept like copyright usage and create ‘simple’ language to restrict its use, the more likely it is that you’ll end up in litigation to determine what the ‘simple’ language means.”  

The CEO of Creative Commons, Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig, in a concise response to the suit, stated cc was not liable in this case. He agreed Alison’s privacy was intruded upon, but felt a case could only be built around the publicity issue, not a copyright issue. Despite his confidence, Lessig was disheartened by the event because of the photographer’s contention that the details of the licensing agreement were not presented on the Web site in a lucid manner. Though CC prides itself on the simplicity its copyrighting services, after this particular incident, Lessig stated, amendments to the licensing agreements can be expected in order to prevent similar situations.

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