Harry Styles. Innocent or guilty of copyright.
It has been widely reported today that Harry Styles had posted a photo on his Instagram account that accumulated over 750,000 likes but was not his to upload. The image of a boxer was taken by Brussels-based photographer Ezequiel Scagnetti who called out Harry in a Facebook post asking why he was not given credit for the image. It was not a vicious attack or even a request to take it down but more just an expression of frustration that his image had 750,000 likes yet the origin of the image was unknown. I’m sure any photographer in his position would have been a lot more vocal than he was.
Unfortunately what resulted was a tirade of comments from One Direction and Harry Styles fans, most of which was very unpleasant and uncalled for. Understandably, the age group of the people making comments is quite young and they have little understanding as to the effect and impact that this kind of thing can have on a photographer. My youngest daughter is in this age group and I have seen her suffer at the other end of vexatious comments on social media and what effect it had on her so I can only imagine how Ezequiel felt as he was being personally attacked as well as his business reputation as a photographer also.
Harry Styles may have innocently uploaded this image without thought of it’s source or the consequences for it’s creator, but given his profile and popularity there can be no excuse for doing so. Copyright is a serious issue in many industries, including music, and photography is one of these industries that suffers the most from infringements of copyright.
Just because you don’t put a watermark or a copyright symbol on an image you post online doesn’t mean that it is there for all to use to their own desires. In most instances a simple request to the photographer will be enough depending on what the usage request is for, but there should always be the opportunity for a photographer to generate income from the images they have taken. That is their business, their livelihood.
Ezequiel ultimately felt the need to respond to all the comments which is unfortunate as he should not have had to justify his initial comment. I hope that the news coverage that this situation has generated makes the people who have commented realise that the photographer was well within his rights to question the use of the image. What I am most disappointed about is that the Instagram post was removed without any apology to the photographer or statement from Harry or his management (please correct me if I am wrong about this as I couldn’t find any statements from them online). Hopefully the photographer will receive a personal apology and more so that the fans that made these comments will gain a better understanding of what ownership of a photo means, especially to a professional photographer.
Here is the screenshot of the Instagram post that Ezequiel originally posted on his Facebook page with his comment below:
What do you think about the use of Ezequiel’s photograph. Should he be compensated for it’s use? Should he receive an apology? Is the internet an unrestricted free-for-all where anyone can take and use what they want without repercussion? I would love to hear your thoughts on this. And by the way, I think it’s a great photo and I’m sure Harry did also!