Image rights: what are our rights?

Trench: J Crew (old but M&S have a great version, here). Cashmere jumper (gift): £179, Jumper1234. Heels (gift): £125, Iris & Ink. Bag: Next (old). Photograph: Ella Sadika.

A few weeks back, I was trolled on instagram (always via Direct Message, never publicly these days) by someone telling me I was self-serving, I only take pictures to promote myself and make money.

To be really honest, I was confused, as I was mainly in agreement! I wasn’t really sure what she was getting at. I don’t take photos of myself because I love myself, I take photos because I enjoy creating content but primarily: it’s my job.

Jumper: £32.50, Marks & Spencer. Skirt: H&M (old). Trainers: £50, Vans at Second Store (only size 3 left). Bag: £100, Cambridge Satchel Company (gift).

However, this doesn’t mean that I am happy for all the publicity in the world.

I create content for my blog myself: I plan shoots, pay photographers, write down and schedule ideas, blogposts, stories, film YouTube videos and organise events. I pay everyone who works with me and over the last 7 years (!) I have what I can now proudly start to call a ‘brand’. And to that extent, I am protective over it.

So when a National Tabloid newspaper used my imagery, of me with my daughter, without permission, I knew I would not take it lying down.

Yes, I put pictures on a public account of my new family, but that doesn’t mean they can be used for anything and everything (Instagram have a clause whereby once you upload images on a public account, they can be shared, but this is within the App, not to an external publisher). I have a right, as the owner of my photographs, to approve where my images appear – and for me, that doesn’t include somewhere that pits women against each other, encourages body-shaming and xenophobia.

Top (gift): £28, Boden. Glasses: £98 (including prescription lenses), Ollie Quinn.

I’m not going to lie, the initial email response I received was quite brutal and refused to take the image down as I was basically public property (as was my daughter). And I think a lot of people assume they can’t take it further, as the copyright laws are so murky.

But your images are your own and you have a right to remove anything that has been posted or used without permission. In a lot of cases, the photographer owns the copyright to images over the subject – which is why I ask to buy the rights to certain photos to be able to use outside of my site (for instance, when Stylist live asked to use a head shot of me, I would ask the photographer to buy the rights of the image to use however I wished). I know these rules from working on a magazine for years, I would always have to seek permission, and often pay, before using any images. Some pictures are under embargo, some have exclusivity with another magazine etc and some photographers didn’t want their pictures to be in Red. And that was a photographers’ prerogative.

Yes, websites such as Who What Wear, Grazia and Red have reposted some of my images – but these websites always ask permission, always credit and they are brands I respect and align with my own. You do have a choice.

Jumper (gift): £39.95, Gap. Jeans (gift): Gap (instore – the ‘crop kick’). Shoes (gift): Lucy Williams x Aeyde. Clutch: Clare V (old).

So I’m pleased to say the image was taken down and I have written confirmation that permission wasn’t asked. The damage has, to some extent, been done as it was a couple of weeks later and my face was used next to an article that wasn’t about anything I stood for…

But, I’ll take the small victory and hopefully they’ll think twice before stealing my content (that I spent time creating) again. And I hope that this might help others in knowing the facts behind imagery – images are being borrowed all over the internet everyday and you can’t be everywhere but this might help you put a stop to it. I don’t use Pinterest as an image source nearly as much as I used to for this reason, or I go out of my way to find the original source and seek permission.

This document here (on the Govt website) might help you understand some of your rights.

Top: Kitri (old). Skirt: And Other Stories (sold out). Heels: Marks & Spencer (old).

11 Comments

  1. Well done! I’m really pleased that you had this success. I so enjoy your blog. It’s a bright spot in a crazy world, as well as thoughtful inspiration in so many ways. All the best to you and your family.

  2. Hi Alex, thanks for this article, really glad you shared the details of what happened to you, particularly that they first refused to acknowledge your ownership of the images and that you were persistent. Of course they are YOUR pictures! (or at least initially joint property with the photographer). Things can often get a bit murky with online publication, particularly with sharing platforms like instagram, so it’s good to have a quick reminder now and again! On a slightly unrelated subject a couple of years ago I witnessed photographers for this particular newspaper taking photos of racegoers at Chester Races, some of the photos accompanied by their trademark slightly catty (f***ing snide and bitchy) captions appearing in Mail Online (I don’t know if they made it into the main paper). What interested me at the time was that there were no disclosures or permissions taken, nothing. It was only after individuals asked that some of the photos were taken down, but like you say, damage already done. But maybe that’s another argument altogether! But kind of not surprised by the cowboy journalism. Glad you were always so responsible at Red! Love to you and the blog, always enjoy reading 🙂

    1. I think they’re a bit like Zara – they know they’re going to get sued so have a load of lawyers on standby but make enough money it’s worth it…and yes, the article is old news by the time you get it taken down! Although if you google my name and daily mail there is an article there from 8 years ago from when I was at Red (and my editor at the time made me go on a shoot – and it was the first time I had been aware of so many nasty comments!) so obviously it stays for eternity! xx

  3. Congratulations Alex, again and again you prove how much honesty and integrity you have, as a woman, as mother, as public person. The world needs more woman like you, beside great style, great humor and brutal honesty, you are above all such a nice person. You never, never disappoint and I admire you for taking freedom in this very competitive world to say loudly what feels right for you. You made my day, best, Marija

  4. Congratulations on your victory, it’s completely justified. It’s such an invasion of privacy apart from the implications for your brand. Hopefully they will use stock images rather than pilfering personal photos in future. Also I think parents need to be really careful when it comes to sharing pictures of their children, not just because of the weirdos out there, but the children might not appreciate the publicity once they are older.

    1. Yes, completely agree! I’ve always discussed with my husband about when to stop sharing and will take down if they don’t want to be part of it, and I’ve also been careful about sharing exact birthdays and her full name…funnily enough a few people have forwarded me a Daily Mail article about being aware of weirdos whilst taking your childs’ photos (firstly, I refuse to click, secondly – quite rich considering they steal photos of people’s kids to circulate to millions!) xx

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