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News & Insight

Photographer Being Sued for $500k By Model For Misused/Stolen Images

By Hanssie on January 12th 2015

You may have heard of the case in national news recently of Nicole Forni, a model whose sexy photos from a lingerie photo shoot were being used by porn sites around the world to promote adult videos, books, products, escort and strip club ads. Forni has claimed that the photographer, Joshua Resnick, a stock photographer, sold the images to these sites and is now is suing Resnick (and a long list of companies) for $500,000.

Joshua Resnick is now speaking out and telling his side of the story. Resnick says that he paid the model and had her sign a model release and that he told her and her agent that the images were going to be sold through stock agencies, such as Shutterstock. He claims that the images were “misused” or “outright stolen” and that the agency he sold the images to did not allow pornographic/defamatory use of said images via their terms of service.

photography-lawsuit-model

Resnick also ascertains that the model herself posted the images on Facebook and therefore, the images could have been stolen from her own Facebook page. He says that prior to the shoot, it was made clear to her agent that the images were going to be for stock photography purposes and that during the shoot, he mentioned several times and explained to Forni that the photographs were for stock photography and also explained how stock photography worked.

Forni is claiming that the shoot was a TFP (Trade for Portfolio) and that the agreement that the images not be used “directly or indirectly, in any adult-oriented,pornographic, or obscene manner,” was made orally and not in the universal model release.

Now, it is a he said/she said case that will be decided in the Manhattan federal court. Joshua Resnick has now set up a Go Fund Me campaign to raise money for his legal defense.

Sadly, in today’s ‘click and save as’ society, image misuse is a daily occurrence. As a photographer you have to do your best to protect yourself – in writing – and be sure that the contract/model releases are very specific and detailed. Also make sure that if you are selling your images to a third party, you’ve read through their terms of service carefully. There isn’t much you can do to protect yourself from the images being misused or stolen, but the more that you can cover yourself in writing, the better, in case you ever find yourself in a situation such as this one.

[REWIND: REVIEW: WHY EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER SHOULD USE CONTRACTS | THE LAW TOG PORTRAIT BUNDLE]

We have a basic model release form to get you started, but your best bet is to make sure you have solid contracts for your shoots and also consult a lawyer who specializes in copyright law to make sure all your bases are covered in your documents. This is an unfortunate case for all parties involved and it will be interesting to see the outcome of this lawsuit and how it may set a precedence for model/photographer working relationships in the future.

[Via PetaPixel/GoFundMe]

About

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com and www.fittedmagazine.com. Follow her on Instagram. Email her at:
Hanssie@slrlounge.com

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Zel Ilano

    Valuable writing ! I am thankful for the analysis . Does anyone know if I would be able to grab a template 2014 IRS 1099-MISC form to edit ?

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  2. David Hall

    Very scary story. It just seems if someone wants to sue you and cause havoc in your life, it’s just so easy to do. I sure hope he wins.

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  3. norman tesch

    ok i went online and pulled up her name. each article had numerous pics that could be used for a porn site. where did they get those photos? mabee he should sue the news for using the images. since he didnt sign a release to air them on the news..looks like she is just doing some self promoting…one article showed 13 photos..to me only 4 looked like they were professionally done the rest are selfies…and if you are posing in lingerie there is obviously a target market you are marketing yourself to.

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    • Nick Viton

      FYI, you don’t need a release for editorial purposes.

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    • Stan Rogers

      …and that target market could be beauty product or lifestyle ads, romantic illustration and the like. Take a look through the “women’s” magazines; they’re a much heavier market for the boudoir look than the “adult” industry.

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  4. J D

    It’s sad but its a way modern technology works now. You put something on it the internet and its out there forever for anyone to use how they see fit, legal or not. This is the reason I do not put anything on my Facebook page anymore. Tired of seeing my hard work elsewhere.

    There are too many variables going on to pick a “side” to be on. This could be anything from a case of a photographer trying to be sly and making an extra few bucks behind the model’s back, hoping she wouldn’t find out to a vindictive ex-boyfriend taking the photos from her Facebook and giving/selling them to the porn companies in question.

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  5. chris adval

    I’ve been following this story a lot since I do work with models very often and plan to continue that in the future, hopefully. The only way this model will win her case is if she can prove the photographer intentionally sold the images for the “pornographic/erotica” usages. If a person that took it from an agency and violated their TOS, it is clearly not the photographer’s fault nor liable. I’m no legal professional, but its clear as day… come on now! I understand where she is coming from but with proper communication with the photographer to ensure he was not doing this intentionally would have been the smarter move cause clearly she does not have evidence he did this intentionally, not at fault nor liable. I think she is very likely to lose the case unless she has video/audio or some kind of paperwork showing the photographer did intentionally try to sell/use for “pornographic/erotica” purposes.

    Odd thing I don’t get here, it is costing the photographer a lot to defend, but why not the person initiating the suit? I’m sure its costing something to her as well, and if she had a thought before doing the suit to hire a PI to gather evidence, but I highly doubt she did and will lose the case due to lack of that evidence. Plus, here’s the real kicker once this case settles down, win or lose to the model, ever since the suit started her modeling career has been put into a casket and nailed shut… no real serious photographers with a brain will work with anyone this difficult and scary.

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    • Steven Pellegrino

      Chris,

      It may not be costing the model anything (or very little) to initiate these lawsuits. She may have found, or has a personal relationship with a lawyer who will take their compensation at the end of the this, hoping they will win or a settlement comes in. Many personal injury attorneys make a great living this way. My guess is that with all of the companies listed in the lawsuit that they are hoping for a payday, and one or more of them will settle this out of court.

      Looking at the photographer’s funding site, he has raised under $1,500. Doubtful he’s going to make it to $50,000, which is a realistic amount to pay to defend yourself in this kind of suit. He is better off trying to negotiate a settlement. It will be far cheaper and easier.

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  6. John Cavan

    Verbal agreements are worth the paper they’re written on… this is why we have contracts and releases.

    I really don’t know if this is a case of regrets after the fact or that he did agree not to let this happen, but when it goes to court it will be a “he said, she said” situation. The one document that matters, with her signature, says he can sell them to whomever he likes. If she didn’t want that, then she needed to have an amended release before signing and posing.

    Sadly, I have a feeling he made the promise she claims and I feel bad for her, but the other lesson for her is to be aware of your modelling choices. I’ll be curious to see the follow-up, but I think she’s going to lose and, what’s worse, the images in question are going to spread far more than ever before. Even if she wins, she loses on this one I think.

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  7. Rafael Steffen

    Selling your photography to stock pages gets you the risk of being purchased and used to other purposes that you could never have imagined, but it is said to hear such a story when all he did a was trying to do some great work.

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  8. Ben Perrin

    I don’t know, it seems to my uneducated self that both parties are in the wrong, or at the very least not 100% right. If he did make a verbal contract that they wouldn’t be used in a pornographic or obscene manner, then he couldn’t release those images on a stock website without thinking that this would happen. Arguing that the images could’ve been stolen off the models facebook is a desperate stretch to me.

    On the other hand it was quite naive of the model to think that these images could be posted to a stock website and not be found on other parts of the internet. Really I feel sorry for her because she’s the one who’s been emotionally damaged by this case and I certainly wouldn’t want to be in her shoes (I wouldn’t fit haha). There’s certainly a lesson in this for both parties.

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  9. Austin Swenson

    I’m not clear here about how they were stolen, but these stolen images seem like a part of doing business when you do these kind of shoots, I think this model would have had to know that when she did these portfolio images that there was the possibility of this happening… Lets say they were even purchased from stock websites legally, there is really nothing she could do if she signed away any claim on the model release, right?

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  10. Matthew Saville

    If this guy loses the lawsuit, I swear I will never photograph another human being, EVER. Ugh, what a depressing, money-grubbing world we live in.

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    • Steven Pellegrino

      Makes you want to stick with landscape photography!

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    • Steven Pellegrino

      I first read this on another site and read a slew of comments from photographers who blame the photographer for not having a better contract, blaming the model, blaming the industry, etc. I don’t know where the blame is, but this is an eye-opener because it just shows that a lawsuit can happen when you least expect it. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, it’s going to cost you to defend yourself.

      In this situation she just may be looking for the person with the deepest pockets to settle out of court. Again an unfortunate reality is that settling is going to cost you less than defending yourself, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.

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    • Stan Rogers

      It’s safest for a photographer to take the position that “adult” commercial use (or anything else that might cast moral aspersions on the subject of the photo, like saying that the model is a drug user or has a sexually transmitted disease) requires positive permission from the subject, and that permission is *never* implied simply because no contrary clause appears in the release. That would be pretty much in keeping with existing case law. As such, licensing terms need to restrict usage unless you have that permission in writing (and keep in mind that the same picture may have very different moral implications in the context of its use), and since you (usually) don’t get to control use with stock, you shouldn’t submit anything to stock libraries that has an obvious potential negative association for the model unless you have that permission explicitly in writing going in. As for “losing control” of an image, one merely needs to take ordinary precautions against loss (like, say, not posting full-rez images online) — there’s not a lot anyone can do about thumbnails (or small-ish web pics) that happen to be useful to a thief (okay, *infringer* for the pedantic).

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  11. Eric Sharpe

    That’s a little disturbing. This is something I’d never thought about.

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