Should we have the right to our own image?

A mind-boggling scenario was brought to light in an Instagram post by Gigi Hadid last week. The model was forced to delete a photo from her Instagram page after her manager informed her that she was being “legally pursued” for posting a photo of herself taken by a paparazzi.

Hadid had found the photo uncredited on Twitter and had posted it to her Instagram account. She even said that she would have given credit to the photographer had they come forward and asked her to. Her frustration was clearly directed at the money-making tendencies of the paparazzi.

The model also shed light on the fact that some of her young fans who have Instagram accounts dedicated to her have had their accounts suspended or have been sued for posting images taken by the paparazzi.

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A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid) on

A valiant flock of celebs have rallied by Hadid’s side since her post, describing similar instances where they have been sued for posting their own faces. Kylie Jenner commented: “We’re ‘public figures’ and it’s legal for them to invade our privacy. It’s pretty disappointing. We gotta change this,” whilst Emily Ratajkowski reposted Gigi’s post.

This is a complex issue to come to terms with. The job of the paparazzi is to photograph and circulate images of celebrities in the media, so choosing to sue a celebrity that posts your photo seems backwards and paradoxical. Surely, we should all have the right to post a photo of ourselves no matter who took it, but there is no law in place to make this the case. Anyone, not just the paparazzi, who takes a photo, owns that photo through copyright law and is liable to sue for improper use.

Here is how the law currently stands:

 

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The law surrounding the paparazzi in England changed significantly after Princess Diana’s death in 1997. Despite her death being the result of a car accident, she was being chased by intrusive paparazzi at the time. A Gallup poll from 1997 reveals that 43% of the UK public thought that the photographers were responsible for the collision.

After Diana’s death, the Protection from Harassment Act became an important way for celebrities to arm themselves against the paps; as did the Press Complaints Commission, who carefully reviewed its press regulations.

There have been many more examples of safety being a key worry, both for celebrities and for the paparazzi. In 2013, a paparazzi was killed when he was run over whilst trying to photograph Justin Bieber in his car.

There are also some bizarre examples of copyright law which are now being questioned. In 2015, PETA attempted to sue a photographer for posting a ‘selfie’ that a monkey had taken. They argued that publishing and selling the photographs that the monkey had taken infringed his copyright. Earlier this year it was decided that, as a monkey, Naruto couldn’t own the copyright for the pictures.

However, the issues brought up last week pose a new, contemporary set of problems. These are issues that arise as products of the internet era. They have raised the question of whether traditional copyright rules are perhaps outdated in the time of platforms like Instagram and other photo sharing sites.

The issues raised by Hadid prove that there is a flaw in the law if we don’t even own the rights to photos of our own faces. Perhaps the law now actually acts in favour of paparazzi rather than the subjects of their taunting. The question is, can we fight for the right to have control over unsolicited pictures of our own faces, and what will protect us when fighting for this right?

 

 

 

 

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