Thanks to Kevin O’Keefe for the heads up on a lawsuit every blogger should know about. A Texas minor is suing Virgin Mobile Australia for use of a Creative Commons photograph in a commerical ad campaign.
The lawsuit alleges the use of the photograph by the company violated the minor’s privacy rights. The plaintiff’s attorney says the company should have obtained consent from the parents of the minor before using the photograph in the ad campaign. The photograph was posted on flickr.com by the minor’s friend who is also a plaintiff claiming the Creative Commons failed "to adequately educate and warn him … of the meaning of commercial use and the ramifications and effects of entering into a license allowing such use."
This should serve as a wake up call for bloggers. Many bloggers I know, including many of the IowaBiz authors, routinely upload photographs from the Creative Commons portion of flickr. Have you thought about whether you were violating the privacy rights of somone in the pictures you upload? Probably not.
Arguably it is much more likely a company using the photograph in a commerical ad campaign is going to get sued rather than your ordinary blogger. In this case the company also had phrases with the photos that could have been interpreted as offensive to the minor such as "Dump Your Pen Friend" and the real kicker – "Free Text Virgin to Virgin".
There is much discussion to be had on these issues including the blogs of Internet PR expert Shel Holtz and Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig.
The lesson is be careful when you upload photos, even Creative Commons photos, from any sites such as flickr. As Holtz says:
. . . the social media community embrace and extoll the virtues of Creative Commons licenses, but this lawsuit seems to show that they are not a panacea. It’ll probably be up to the courts, ultimately, to decide who has rights to your image once it escapes into the social media space, with or without your knowledge or consent.
I also encourage you to check out the video of the plaintiff’s attorney. He makes a decent argument on behalf of his client.