Get over it Fursuiters: You don’t have ‘creative control’ over photographs.

I love being a Furry. Don’t get me wrong, I do. And I like most of the people in it. However, wisdom and common sense are two things that are very lacking in the minds of many fursuiters. Not long ago I witnessed some very serious talk about something that should be readily obvious to anyone with any real life experience. Let me right here save you the potential for a lot of hassle: If you’re at a Furry convention and someone takes a photo of you, chances are you do not have creative control over that photograph.

There are laws about controlling the use of one’s image or likeness, but there’s a 90% chance that the grounds for stopping the use of your likeness will not apply to the situation you are in. In the United States, the only way to legally stop or remove a photograph of you or your likeness can be satisfied by one of three conditions: Invasion of privacy, right of publicity and defamation.

“That’s an invasion of my privacy!”

My experience is that many furry conventions and meetups are held in public places. If that is the case, anyone can take your photograph regardless of permission given. There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s why police and authorities are able to put up cameras in public places with no repercussion. That’s also why paparazzi, for example, are able to do what they do for a living.

The key word in determining right to privacy here is a “reasonable expectation for privacy,” and if you’re in a public place, there is no ‘reasonable expectation.’ That has been determined many times through common law precedent. Get over it.

Now, if you’re at a convention held on private property, the owner (or, in this case, lessor), can at most require a photographer to leave. However, in the typical occurrences of convention photography, the ‘reasonable expectation’ for privacy isn’t going to be different from that of a public place.

“But what about my intellectual property?”

A lot of fursuiters mistakenly believe that any photograph containing them is their intellectual property, and that they therefore have some veto power of whether the photograph gets published. Not true.

Yes, your fursuit is your intellectual property. But the photograph with your fursuit in it is the intellectual property of the photographer.

“But photographers have to sign contracts with models. My situation is no different!”

Intellectual property grounds, or right of publicity, is used for commercial purposes only. That’s what makes photographs at a furry convention a scenario entirely different from, say, modeling. Now, if a photographer starts selling for money photographs which include you in it, that is a different story. My experience is that 99% of the time photographers know better than to do that, and that most photographs taken at conventions are used for non-commercial, non-transactional purposes. In which case, fursuiters have no recourse or creative control over those photographs. Suck it up snowflake.

“But this is an unflattering picture of me. Defamation!”

Defamation is notoriously difficult to prove. If the image creates a ‘false impression’ and injures an individual’s reputation, there may be a case for defamation. Obviously, unflattering images or bad photos aren’t going to cut it here. Proving that an image portrays someone in a ‘false manner’ is also not going to be easy in most cases, especially because most photography in these events are consensual pictures and many are group pictures.

If, for example, a terrorist group such as Al Queda or Black Lives Matter take a group photograph of fursuiters at a convention, and then publish the photo on their Twitter account, even that would be difficult to prove defamation, I suspect. But if, for example, Black Lives Matter people put in bold letters at the top of the picture “Our newest Black Lives Matter recruit,” that might be the case for defamation. But I think we can agree that this is a very remote case.

Here’s quick write-up of control of image or likeness laws which would apply to a civil case. It’s very difficult to imagine any incidence of Furry convention photography that would apply to the below conditions. Chances are, you’re just going to have to accept that these are public, open events. The best idea is to just go with the flow.

 

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