Smile for the Camera

As most of you know I am a social media fanatic. I spend countless hours studying and researching and trying to understand more about this “fad”. There are a lot of doubters out there, some of you might even be reading this, and that is OK. It is just fuel for my fire as I am trying to build this infrastructure of social media. I am getting close and as each day passes I am learning more and more. But is social media always safe? Or legal?

Let me paint you a picture. Or take a picture for that matter. You and your family go to get some family portraits taken for, oh, I don’t know, your Christmas card. You all smile bright and say cheese as the camera flashes in your eyes. You complain about the flash, think nothing more of, get the prints, yadda yadda yadda and post the image on your family blog. No big deal. You shoot the Christmas cards out and your family smiles at how cute you all are. The perfect American family.

Well that story is about a real family that went through this exact same process. And when one of the people who received a Christmas card was on vacation on Prague. And there you have it, that same image, from the St. Louis family, is on the side of a billboard advertising a grocery store. The image was found online, assuming from the blog that it has been posted on, and used to advertise a product for this grocery store. And all the while this was happening the family had no idea, and was not asked permission to have their photo used.

When the friend saw this she called the family immediately to tell them what was happening. Long story short (yeah, I know right, I am going to keep it short) the family asked the store owner to remove the image. The store owner stated that he was “taking the proper steps to removing the image” and will be sending the family a bottle of wine for the trouble. Wait a minute, the proper steps?

What steps do you need to take to remove a sign on YOUR store? Am I wrong in thinking that he can just walk over, remove the sign, and that be the end of it? Because I highly doubt that there is any protocol for a local store owner to go through when it comes to the advertising that HE created and HE put into place. And what will this bottle of wine do? Is that supposed to make this family feel better about this? Will that remove any trauma that was caused in this ordeal? No, probably not. But wait, would you even call this trauma?

I have hopes, ambitions, and dreams of something like this happening to me. I want someone to take my images, my words, my opinions, my art; you name it, and use it for whatever he or she sees fit. I would be honored to walk around the corner and see my face on a billboard. It is free advertising. It is publicity. And it would be awesome to see myself on the side of an advertisement. So why are these people upset about it?

Maybe it is why half of the people (probably more) that I talk to have no idea what social media is for or the power behind it. Why does this store owner need permission to use a photo that was not technically copyrighted. Sure, there is the old adage that if you publish something it is in fact considered to be under copyright, but the more websites that we come across and the more that we move toward a web based society the harder this will be to track and trace. There is no way that you can sue this individual for copyright infringement. But I would think the family will take the bottle of wine, the apologies, and move on with their lives.

Anyone want to feature my mug in their next advertisement?