Taylor Swift Instagram

I ran across a story this week that highlights a theme that we have touched on in a previous blog about social media and copyright infringement. It involves social media law, fan art, and in this case, Taylor Swift. The dust-up started on Halloween 2004; when Taylor Swift posted, what appeared to be, fan art on her Instagram account along with some lyrics to her song “I Know Places” from her 1989 album. With over 70 million Instagram followers, Taylor Swift carries a great deal of influence on the social media platform and most of her posts garner a great deal of attention.

Typically, sharing a fan’s art  is considered a huge compliment to the fan. In many cases, the fan is overjoyed to have reached the attention of their celebrity hero. What happens when the fan signed and shared a piece of art that wasn’t their own? Welcome to the one of the many challenges of copyright, ownership, social media law and celebrity.

A photo from Taylor Swift's Instagram Account  Zach Hiller Law Houston, TX

A photo from Taylor Swift’s Instagram account highlights the star’s influence.

Social Media, Law, & Taylor Swift

An issue with social media law surrounding this art of a fox Zach Hiller Law Houston, TX

The piece behind the dispute courtesy Hyperallergic

As we stated above, Taylor Swift shared a picture of a fox painted in watercolor on her Instagram page. The photo included the signature on the piece of the fan that submitted it to the celebrity. The post was well liked and shared. There was only one problem. The fan who shared the piece didn’t own it. In fact, it was plagiarized from an artist based in New Orleans, Ally Burguieres. She noticed her art was posted without credit or compensation, as Ms. Swift used it to promote her new record. Burguieres noted her frustration in an open letter to the singer, expressing her anger and disappointment. It wasn’t long until her letter started to go viral and Taylor Swift removed the offending picture from her account. Then Swift’s attorney’s got involved, offering a “four-figure” licensing fee in return for the previous use.

Burguieres noted that much of her anger stemmed not only from the copyright infringement but also from Swift’s previous stances on artist’s rights and the value of artistic pieces. At the end of the day, Burguieres opted not to pursue legal action against Swift. From an attorney’s perspective, this story only highlights the chaotic nature of social media and the law, especially in a “social sharing” world. It is difficult to ascertain the true ownership of artistic pieces at times, even when the pieces are signed. It is also difficult to put the genie back in the bottle when an artistic piece has been shared across the world wide web. This case highlights the importance of copyright protections as well, which can’t prevent your work from being shared across the globe but it can offer some legal recourse to the rightful owner.

Have you had a similar issue? We would like to hear about your experience. Are you unsure how to protect your intellectual property from infringement? For more information on how your copyrights can be protected contact the Zach Hiller Law Firm today for a free consultation.

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