It’s probably not easy to be famous in the age of social media. Certainly it’s easy in the most obvious ways that have carried over for decades: money and some measure of power and certainly free stuff sent to your well-appointed home and invites to the best parties and premieres. But with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and TikTok as the most prominent means of communicating, people can say and post what they want about you (short of the legal definition of libel) and given that fame it’s likely to be tens or hundreds of thousands or even into the millions of mentions you’re getting every day. Which is good when the mentions are good, but when it comes to control of your own image, it’s an uphill battle.
Model Genevieve Morton is taking on Twitter over the dissemination of her images on the platform, accusing the platform of contributing to the copyright infringement that takes place on the site of images she holds the rights to. More specifically, she’s taking aim at the platform’s algorithm responsible for cropping images that are posted on the site. According to Morton and her legal team, the cropped images created by the algorithm are derivative works violating her copyright.
This algorithmic complaint is nestled within a larger spat with the platform over copyright infringement, which is a similar complaint made by many users over the years, famous or otherwise. Morton is suing Twitter for $10 million for its failure to take swift or serious action on copyright infringement, noting specific instances when the platform has taken weeks or longer to take down posts using her copyrighted images after she filed takedown requests.
This case, like others before it, is complicated by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects platforms like Twitter and others against what is posted by those using the respective sites. So while Twitter may have been slow to act on removing the copyrighted images, its argument in this case will be that it is not in fact the infringing party, and as such shouldn’t be held liable for the infringement committed by users on its site.
Still, one can understand the frustration felt as a model dealing with copyright infringement on sites that are rife with those sorts of violations. Unlike musicians or actors, your livelihood is tied up entirely in pictures, and losing the ability to monetize them takes away at least some portion of your income, or at least takes away control over your image. I don’t know that there’s any way to put the genie back in that particular bottle, but it’s understandable that Morton and others need to try.