Want to Get Sued by a Model? Put His/Her Stock Photo on the Cover of Your Controversial Book!

Want to Get Sued by a Model? Put His/Her Stock Photo on the Cover of Your Controversial Book!

Disclaimer – I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY. THE INFORMATION HERE IS MY OPINION, AND IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. CONSULT WITH YOUR ATTORNEY IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT OBTAINING OR USING PHOTOS OF INDIVIDUALS.

At BookLocker.com, we recently rejected the cover design of a book that featured photos of two children on the front. The photos were legally purchased from a stock photo agency. However, the topic of the book was, shall we say, of an embarrassing nature. All I can tell you is that it dealt with medical topics that NO child would want their photo associated with!

Think about it. Johnny and Jane are in school one day and a fellow student shows up, holding a book on an embarrassing medical topic. And, there are Johnny and Jane, featured right there in full color, on the cover. Of course, the depiction makes it appear that Johnny and Jane have that medical condition. They are teased and bullied and their parents, of course, sue the author of the book for damaging their children.

You’d think most people have common sense and you’d think most people would know better. Unfortunately, some people just don’t think about the consequences of their actions. Had they put themselves in the shoes of the potential victims, they could have figured it out really fast. But, they didn’t. Luckily, I did! When I saw the cover and the title, everyone here in the “home office” heard me loudly say, “NOOOOOO WAY!!!”

Example of how a legally shot photo can end up illegally used on a product or online –

EXAMPLE 1:
What if your child was a model and the photographer sold their photos to a reputable stock photo agency? And, what if someone then purchased your child’s photo and put that photo, in full color, showing your child’s very recognizable face, on the cover of a book about victims of sex offenders, or child drug addicts, or children in jail, or the spread of venereal disease in youth populations. See where I’m going with this? Even a novel with an embarrassing story line could humiliate your child.

EXAMPLE 2:
One day, your dad flies in for a visit and you take him to the beach. There are people with cameras everywhere. You both ignore them, and spend the afternoon catching up while working on your tans. A few months later, a friend calls to say she saw a book for sale online and YOUR bikini photo is on the cover, with your dad by your side. It’s an erotic romance novel…about a woman who’s cheating on her husband.

EXAMPLE 3:
You’re at the pool with your kids and you notice a weird guy with a big camera lens taking pictures of the children there. Your creep meter goes off and you quickly bundle your children up an head for the car, after reporting him to the lifeguard, of course. Later, the nut-case gets a visit from the police after he posts suggestive swimming photos of neighborhood children online.

These are just a few examples of how someone can legally take/obtain a photograph of an individual. But, it’s how the photo is later used that can get the user into trouble.

STOCK AGENCIES – CAN YOU USE THOSE PHOTOS ANY WAY YOU WANT JUST BECAUSE YOU PURCHASED THEM? NOPE!

If someone purchases a photo from a reputable stock agency, they are NOT permitted to use that photo in any way they choose.

Per the dreamstime.com contract :

“…you agree not to use Media with sensitive topics without Dreamstime‘s separate written agreement. Such sensitive topics include, but are not limited to: models with mental or physical health issues, social issues, sexual activity, sexual orientation or related, substance abuse, crime or other subjects that can be considered to be offensive or unflattering to any of the models included in the image.”

Per the Shutterstock contract license :

“YOU MAY NOT portray any person depicted in Visual Content (a “Model”) in a way that a reasonable person would find offensive, including but not limited to depicting a Model: a) in connection with pornography, ‘adult videos’, adult entertainment venues, escort services, dating services, or the like; b) in connection with the advertisement or promotion of tobacco products; c) in a political context, such as the promotion, advertisement or endorsement of any party, candidate, or elected official, or in connection with any political policy or viewpoint; d) as suffering from, or medicating for, a physical or mental ailment; or e) engaging in immoral or criminal activities.”

Most other stock photo agencies have similar limitations.

There are plenty of examples of lawsuits that have been filed by folks who were featured in or on books, or by the media, without their consent. Celebrities sue over their likeness being used in ads all the time. But, normal folks can sue, too.

* A teenager whose bathing suit photo was used in a school presentation filed a $2M lawsuit against the school. Her lawsuit claimed that the use of the photo suggested she was “promiscuous or an alcoholic.”

* An author was sued after using a couple’s photo on the cover of an erotic book.

* A model sued Shutterstock and 35 other companies, including the original photographer, after her photo, which was sold to stock photo agencies, was used on erotic book covers (i.e. “Horny Housewives of Dubai”) and elsewhere. In the photo on the book above, she’s wearing skimpy lingerie and is in a very suggestive position…but that didn’t mean she still wasn’t entitled to sue.

Read how that case ended up here: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4354475/forni-v-resnick/

So, before you use a photo of a real person in or on your book, check your bank account. Do you have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars that may be necessary if you get sued? More importantly, do you really want to risk harming someone in this way? Put yourself in their shoes. If you wouldn’t put your own face (or that of your child) on a book of that nature, don’t put someone else’s face on it, either.

RELATED:

Well, Excuuuuuse Me for Trying to Protect You From a Lawsuit!

Don’t Invite Lawsuits by Real People Featured in Your Book! (Hint: You Can Still Be Sued Even If You Don’t Name Them!)

Featuring Real People in Your Writing? Protect Yourself From Lawsuits!

Boldly Assuming You “Can’t Be Sued” Will Likely Lead to a Lawsuit

Somebody Stole My Photos…And They Ended Up In A Book!

Does That Website Really Own The Photo They Just Gave Me Permission To Use? Not Likely!

Can I Use A Picture I Found Online?

12 Ways to Avoid Getting Sued When Writing Your Memoirs

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Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).

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