Can your daughters picture at a car wash be used for an ad campaign?

Creative commons will be put to test as will our interconnected world.

A Dallas Family is suing Virgin Mobile's Australian ad campaign for inappropriately using a picture of their daughter snapped at a church car wash.

The picture of 16-year-old Chang flashing a peace sign was taken at an April church car wash by Alison's youth counselor, who posted it that day on his Flickr page, according to Alison's brother, Damon. In the ad, Virgin Mobile printed one of its campaign slogans, “Dump your pen friend,” over Alison's picture.

The ad also says “Free text virgin to virgin” at the bottom.

The experience damaged Alison's reputation and exposed her to ridicule from her peers and scrutiny from people who can now Google her, the family charged in the lawsuit.

This is a case study we will be using in my classes to talk about creative commons, ethics, and proper copyright. And if you follow the discussion over on Flickr about this — you can see the light dawning about what creative commons really means. This was cited as “attribution only” but since the photographer wasn't attributed, the family seems to be using that argument.

And, in this case, the photographer also didn't have the permission of the girl — or did he? — should she have been considered “talent” and compensated?

Sometimes things happen that cause us to scratch our heads and say — Hmmm?

Breaking News– I have also found a Flickr group discussing other images that are being used in this campaign.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Heather Ross September 21, 2007 - 5:15 pm

I was searching for some pictures on Flickr yesterday, via Creative Commons. I wanted one that somebody had taken of their iPod touch. Among some pictures of individuals and their new Pods were screen grabs off of the Apple site.

People need to understand that you can’t give permission for use if you never owned the permission yourself.

Chris Craft September 23, 2007 - 4:32 pm

Ironic, I asked this same question a few weeks ago…

Just because the photographer wants attribution doesn’t mean that he has permission to post the picture of the “model” and I use that term in a legal sense. Also being a minor child he’s got issues in that he posted a picture without parental consent. I wonder if there’s not ramifications there as well.


Andy September 24, 2007 - 5:17 pm

I’m not sure how they could win a case against CC, as it’s simply a legal framework that played no role in the transaction. The dilemma occurred because the person licensed a photo that featured a minor, and they never got a release form signed by that minor’s parents. That could lead to a lawsuit whether or not CC was used as part of the licensing scheme. If the pic had been “all rights reserved,” and they licensed it without getting a release form, the blame would still go towards the photographer and the licensor, not the copyright scheme used to make the transaction. It’s a privacy matter and an issue of release forms, not a copyright one. That’s why documentary makers always ask people to sign releases before going on camera, particularly when a person is a private citizen and not a public figure.

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