"Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed."
Recently, I was asked about copyright infringement and the legalities with social media, minors, relatives, etc. I thought this would be a great topic for my blog because it's definitely confusing when social media makes copyrighted materials so easily accessible. There have been cases where I've heard about pictures of adopted children getting stolen from adoptive parents' social media by the birth parents in an apparent attempt to show they are still active members in their lives. This makes things difficult for the adoptive parents, and the court systems, of course. Legally, the copyright maintains with the artist, unless compensated for the release of copyright. This is a rare case for artists to release copyrighted material. Many photographers will release the sharing and printing rights, but will not release the copyright. This means that their images can be shared and printed however the paying party sees fit, but doesn't mean this right is extended to others, especially those who have never met the minors in the images.
Ice Castles. Melissa Adams
In 2017, Bruno Mars was sued over an Instagram post. The image was of Bruno, himself, captured by Catherine McGann back in 1989 when Bruno was only 3 or 4 years old. Many people think that just because an image is of them, they have the rights to the image. This can be especially confusing even to the professionals. Many asked "Was the image taken in public?" "The photographer can't sue him because he was a minor. Did she have a model release for this image?" The end of the story is this: If you didn't take the image, it's not your intellectual copyright. Many speculated Bruno would know this, as an artist himself, but in the age of social media, I truly believe it was a misunderstanding.
Tablet Time. Melissa Adams 2019.
According to ipwatchdog.com, "Re-posting, saving, and sharing other persons’ content on social media is far more impactful than the simple click of a button, per say. In fact, infringing on an author’s copyright by re-posting, saving or sharing content is no different than other forms of copyright violations. Infringers can be held liable for actual damages and their additional profits or statutory damages. If the infringement was willful, courts may increase damages up to six-figure awards."
This is good to take note of. Typically people won't go after the damages for a sharing things, but sharing other people's private/personal lives, children and families can be taken much more seriously. If you didn't pay for the images, it's best to contact the person who did to see if you have the option to share the image, too. I've seen this, myself, actually. Once, there was a woman who stole an image from my client and used it to say that was her own child. We threatened legal recourse and it was quickly put to an end.
The short of it all is that while you can steal others' photos and publicly post them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., that doesn't make it legally your right to do so. You can be responsible for the damages. If you want to control others having access to your life, it's best to keep your circle small, and your online presence smaller.
Finding Big Sister On Stage. Melissa Adams 2019.
"Copyright in General." copyright.gov, n.d.,https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#protect
Zhang, Michael. "Bruno Mars Sued by Photographer for Sharing Childhood Photo." PetaPixel, 27 Nov. 2017, https://petapixel.com/2017/11/27/bruno-mars-sued-photographer-sharing-childhood-photo/.
Ciccatelli, Amanda G. "Photo Sharing on Social Media & Copyright Infringement: What You Need to Know." ipwatchdog.com, 15 Dec. 2017, https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2017/12/15/photo-sharingsocial-media-copyright-infringement/id=91022/?fbclid=IwAR0Psg7yN0ttg8CT-ueDaJPG_1OsRsyzXvSsNHIgF5NzOWboMtPOIcf38kQ.