Volvo says it can take your Instagram photos for free and do whatever it wants with it

Fig. Prateek Katyal /

Photographer Jack Schroeder and model Britni Sumida said "check" and filed a lawsuit for Volvo’s copyright infringement. The result of this legal battle can become an inspiration for many creators around the world. And for the defendants, an opportunity to obtain huge damages.

Let’s start from the beginning. The case dates back to April 2019, when photographer Jack Schroeder and model Britni Sumida made a beautiful session for the portfolio together. They used a white Volvo S60 in outdoor photos. The entire session was a private project to show my abilities, not a session paid for by the car manufacturer. After processing, the photos were placed on the photographer’s Instagram profile. And it started …

According to Schroeder’s assurances, representatives of Volvo in the USA had to contact the photographer several times with a request for permission to use the photos without payment. Schroeder rejected their offers. Instead, he emailed his offer to license the use of the photos. He never got a reply. The topic seemed to be over. Suddenly, in November, Jack Schroeder saw his photos on the Volvo profile on Instagram and Pinterest.

The photographer got nervous, but the model has the biggest problem

The author of the photos was upset, but the actions of the American branch of Volvo complicated the matter for the model appearing in the photos. Britni Sumida has signed an exclusive contract with another automotive company. By appearing in advertising or marketing materials of another brand, e.g. on Instagram, she is breaking the terms of the contract.

Screen of lawsuit against Volvo. You can see pictures of Schroeder used on the Pinterest Volvo Car USA profile

According to Petapixel, Schroeder and Sumida repeatedly tried to clarify the matter and demanded the removal of the photos. Unfortunately it did not help. The creators decided to file a lawsuit . And it started …

Volvo says it can freely use Instagram photos

In response to the lawsuit , Volvo lawyers have become deeply entrenched in their positions. They claim that Instagram sublicences them to the republication (re-share) of any photos shared publicly on the site, citing the rules of a popular social network. Schroeder posted the indicated photos like this, so everything is fine. The problem is, it’s not.

Screen of lawsuit against Volvo. You can see pictures of Schroeder used on the Pinterest Volvo Car USA profile

Volvo is either trying to distort reality in its own direction, or it has not read the cases described in April by Ars Technica . Timothy B. Lee cites a spokesman for Facebook, the owner of Instagram:

The policy of our websites requires that all entities have the necessary rights from their owners. This will also include the need to have a license to share the material, if required by law.

Put simply, before embeeding posts someone’s post on your website, you may be required to ask the author for a separate photo license for the post. If you don’t, you could be sued for copyright infringement.

Volvo accuses the photographer and model of "making a pitchfork out of a needle because they continue to use the brand, image, reputation and significant social media reach of the respected automotive company to promote themselves."

It is worth noting that Volvo is not the first, but probably not the last company that has problems with photos taken from Instagram. This article describes two big cases in which photographers fought for their rights with Mashable and Newsweek. In the first case, Stephanie Sinclair lost a court battle with a publisher. In the second case, just a few days ago, an American court rejected Newsweek’s motion to dismiss the photographer’s action for infringement of the law.

These, however, are different from the conflict with Volvo described above. Both publishers shared photos of photographers on their website through the embedding function. Volvo took pictures of Schroeder’s profile alive.

In Poland, Volvo cooperates with many photographers

It’s interesting that the strategies for collaborating with photographers can be so different. The Polish branch of Volvo is known for its cooperation with many excellent photographers in the shooting of their cars. Many times I myself have liked the great, original works of Filip Blank or Wojtek RadwaƄski with Volvo cars in the lead role. I am surprised by the position of the American branch of a well-known automotive company.

Even if Volvo’s lawyers are right (and Instagram itself admitted that it was not), we are human and we should be able to get along and understand each other. After all, somewhere there are some people who are most normal in the world, in human terms, should understand that by publishing these photos, they created a huge problem for the photographed model. It would be enough to delete these photos and the problem is over. Perhaps some intern did not read the photographer’s e-mails, and another person threw them in afterwards without even being aware of the whole thing. Or maybe it was a deliberate act.

Anyway, we now have a lot of people involved in the trial, stress, high costs, and even a Polish journalist writing about this case.

The case of Schroeder and Sumid versus Volvo could be a breakthrough

The decision in this matter can actually help or greatly harm many creators around the world who are struggling with photo theft. At least those living in the US. A court judgment may be a precedent for them which they can refer to in their cases.

Let’s also not forget that for Schroeder and Sumida, winning can mean huge compensation. If the court finds them right, the authors would be entitled to compensation of up to PLN 150,000. dollars. for each photo used by Volvo. This does not include criminal damages, attorney’s fees or profits that Volvo has obtained from unauthorized advertising. Ideas with ideas, but now it’s all about big money.

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Volvo says it can take your Instagram photos for free and do whatever it wants with it