Vanessa Hudgens Claims She Owns Copyright On Nude Photos Of Herself

from the lawyers-might-disagree dept

As we've discussed in the past, the subject of a photograph does not have any copyright claim on the image. The copyright is, instead, granted to whoever took the photo (amusingly, yes, this means that if you hand your little point-and-shoot to a random stranger to take you photo while on vacation, technically, that stranger owns the copyright on the photo). This is something that people often confuse -- as they assume that the subject has a copyright on the images. Copycense points us to the news that actress/singer Vanessa Hudgens isn't just suing some blogsite for posting nude photos of her, but is claiming copyright on the photos, saying she took them herself. I haven't seen the photos, so I'll rely on the claims at that link that the photos show her posing, with no indication that she is the one taking the photos. It is possible that the photos used a timer, I guess, but other reports have said that the photos were cameraphone photos, which usually don't have timers. As such, it certainly sounds like it might be a case of copyrfraud to falsely claim copyright on images where you do not, in fact, hold the copyright. That said, it's hard to be sympathetic to a site posting nude photos of someone who does not want them posted -- though, you have to admit that it's odd that these photos were registered with the US copyright office.


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  1.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 8th, 2010 @ 7:06am

    Er...

    Isn't she like sixteen? Shouldn't there be deeper concerns here besides copyright?

     

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  2.  
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    Mikey (profile), Jan 8th, 2010 @ 7:43am

    Re: Er...

    I think she was > 18 at the time of the photos. Wikipedia tells me she's 21 now.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 8th, 2010 @ 7:51am

    Re: Re: Er...

    Ah, in that case nevermind.

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Jan 8th, 2010 @ 8:22am

    Re: Er...

    It would be funny if she were underage *and* claimed she took the pictures and then was promptly charged with creating child pornography.

    :P

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 8:28am

    If she didn't take the photos of herself, you can't automatically claim that the person who took the photos holds the copyright, unless there's a model release form. And certain things don't have to be registered at the copyright office, to be covered by copyright, as some things are automatically covered upon creation.
    Too many assumptions and jumping to conclusions without evidence.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 8:30am

    The pictures are mirror shots, so she did take them of herself

     

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    ethorad (profile), Jan 8th, 2010 @ 8:33am

    Re:

    As you say, I believe that in the US you automatically hold copyright on stuff you've created (such as photos) without having to register.

    However, before you can sue for breach of copyright they do have to be registered. Since Vanessa is suing over the photos either they are registered, or she/her lawyer is dumb.

    Disclaimer: I'm not a (copyright) lawyer, so it could always be me that's dumb ...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 8:53am

    Even if she was a minor at the time, the photos do not constitute child pornography--at least not from a legal standpoint.

     

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  9.  
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    Joe, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 8:55am

    Not related to the copyright question per se, but don't celebrities have some form of image/ likeness rights? I remember a case a few years back where someone created a bobble-head of California governor Schwarzenegger. His wife was apparently not happy about that, but by becoming a public servant, he lost those rights to his likeness.

     

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    John Doe, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 8:57am

    Re: Re:

    I think you are mostly right with one exception. I don't believe you have to register the copyright before suing. Without a registered copyright, you can only sue for actual damages. With a registered copyright, you can sue for punitive damages as well. I think there is a very brief period where you can register after the infringement and still sue for punitive damages.

     

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  11.  
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    hax, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 8:58am

    This thread is useless without pics! ;)

     

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    interval, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:02am

    Re:

    Only if the likeness is used in some kind of endorsement, like if I ran copies of this picture and said "Trojans. Vanessa Hudgens won't let any other brand of condom near her naked body." then she'd probably have a case. But if every star took the tack that they own any image that's taken (or painted) of them then people like Annie Leibovitz wouldn't get very far in life. Which I wouldn't mind in har case, Leibovitz is an ass.

     

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    Yakko Warner, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:05am

    Re:

    Awh, you beat me to it. :lol:

     

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    Marc J. Randazza, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:10am

    A little off...

    Yes, it is true that the *creator* of the work initially owns the copyright. But, does that mean that the person who pushes the button on the camera automatically owns it? No, it does not.

    The director of a film, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, owns the copyright in the film -- not the cameraman.

    Now, if Ms. Hudgens "directed" the photography, then she would actually be the copyright holder.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:13am

    she took them into mirror, i expect better writing from techdirt than this article and a little more research into the photos rather than just speculation. they arent hard to find.

     

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    Comboman (profile), Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:13am

    Misc. points

    - Photographers may own the copyright on the image, but if the subject is a person, they need to have signed a model release for that image to be published (and yes, a website is publishing). - Since 1978, copyrights don't have to be registered (but it does help during litigation). - If you hire a photographer to take your picture, I believe you can have the copyright assigned to you (if the photographer agrees), i.e. a work-for-hire situation. - If you use a timer, who owns the copyright? Who owns the copyright on pictures snapped by an automated security camera? Who owns the copyright on pictures of mars snapped by a robot?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:16am

    Yeah, photos obviously shot by her (you can see her holding the cam in most of them, and most of them are mirror shots). Sounds like a publicity stunt to me, though. The leak is really old and even though moejackson claims to have leaked the photos, you can find them all over the web (with the exception of moejackson, where the stories related to the photos are only accessible via google cache).

     

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  18.  
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    R. Miles (profile), Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:18am

    Re: A little off...

    The director of a film, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, owns the copyright in the film -- not the cameraman.
    Incorrect. The producers own the copyright as they're the ones who fund the film to be made.

     

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  19.  
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    aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:20am

    After some exhaustive research...

    ...and a thorough investigation into these pictures, I say that there is no way we could make a determination without recreating the entire thing but video taping it this time so that we know the method she used for taking the pics.

    Honestly she's embarrassed about it and doing whatever she can to make it go away. I wouldn't even try to hit her with a bogus copyright claim because she's going to suffer enough just for publicizing it this much.

    I hereby release this post under the WTFPL v2.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:21am

    So what everybody is saying is that she should have signed a model release in order for her to be legal to shoot photos of herself in the mirror if someone was to post them on the internet afterwards?

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:28am

    Re:

    Ah copyright laws. You are truly insane.

     

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  22.  
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    tracker1 (profile), Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:30am

    Re: Re: A little off...

    Tell that to wedding photographers that you pay to take pictures.

     

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  23.  
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    some old guy, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:34am

    I looked it up

    it is extremely obvious she took the pictures herself. No copyfraud. Kudos to her for exerting copyright control while getting lots of really good free publicity for herself.

    (considering how clean the pics are, they are clearly also leaked on purpose.)

     

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  24.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:40am

    Re:

    A model release form effects how the photographer is allowed use their copyright photo of the model (as well as anyone the photographer licenses it to), but I don't think it has anything to do with the copyright itself. Correct me if I'm wrong, though...

     

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  25.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:41am

    Re: Re:

    whoever you are, stop leaving such large intervals between your comments, because they are hilarious

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 9:44am

    This is stupid, and all of you are looking at this the wrong way. Vanessa needs to own this. She needs to just say "yeah I did it, I took nude shots of myself...why?...because I'm f'ing hot thats why...look at my tight body, I'm hot, so deal with it". I saw these photos way back when they came out and then it was a non-issue until now.

     

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  27.  
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    No, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 10:07am

    Re: Misc. points

    So every sports photo taken by any photographer and published has obtained model releases from everyone caught in the photo? Every person caught on street photos have signed model release forms?

    Every camera taking pictures of cars at intersections send out model release forms to people who happen to be walking nearby?

    If you are in public, I can take your picture. I can also put it on my website and I don't need your permission. You were in public.

    If model release forms were required, then the paparazzo would never be able to sell photos of celebrities and the gossip mags could not publish them.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 10:12am

    With photography for hire (ie: photographer is hired to photograph the model), where I live the person who hired the photographer owns the copyright the image, not the photographer, unless in the contract it is stated that the photographer owns the copyright.

    If the photographer hired the model, then the photographer owns the copyright.

    All of that can be changed by agreement via a signed contract.

    Copyright laws are different from country to country. If Ms. Hudgens filed these with the Copyright Office, AND she could produce the original files (ie: straight off the camera without having had any editing and all the exif data intact) and can produce the camera (or phone) which they came from, she could have a case.

     

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  29.  
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    ethorad (profile), Jan 8th, 2010 @ 11:10am

    Re: Re: Re: A little off...

    It probably comes down to the contracts.

    The contract between the producer and director (and cameramen, actors, etc) will state who owns the copyright - as does the contract for wedding photographers.

    For wedding photos in my experience the photographer owns the copyright. As for films, I'm not a director/producer so can't comment there ...

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 11:15am

    its so sad what laws/regulations in this country has come to. we have taken the constitutional laws/rights/regulation (what have you...) and pushed them to brink of of not making sense.

    It seems anyone can do anyone and then hide behind so called freedom and laws. If walk down the street picking my nose, some fool can snap my picture and put it up on the web, and there nothing that I can do about it? Then it goes viral, losers go ape shit, and start stalking me to see if I do it again. Now my life becomes a public mess, and yet there is nothing I can do, because there is no one to sue, and apparently no laws were broken....

    Is this what the founding fathers wished for us? Is this the height of our so-called enlightened society? It seems some where along the way we got lost in the shuffle and resorted back to the BS that plagued Europe before America became a nation.

    /rant off --- its no wonder why so many people lose them selves in online MMORPG rather than embrace reality....

     

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  31.  
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    uh, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 11:25am

    Depends

    It depends which set of pictures she is talking about. There was a set leaked 2 years ago that include shots of her posing nude and in her underwear, then there is the set of photos leaked earlier this year that were clearly self-shots using a camera phone.

     

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  32.  
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    The Mighty Buzzard, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 11:30am

    Re:

    See, that would be why God created the Ass Beating. Shame we've mostly outlawed it.

     

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  33.  
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    Josh (profile), Jan 8th, 2010 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re:

    Ha! I would pay to see someone make that ad without her permission.

     

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  34.  
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    Michial Thompson, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 12:16pm

    Not that I much understand copyright as it applies to Photographs, but I think that if I paid someone to take photos of me then they tried claiming that they owned the copyright I would have a pretty good case of work for hire claim to my owning the copyrights on the photos.

     

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  35.  
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    Michial Thompson, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Re: Misc. points

    #27;

    I think you are only partially correct in what you are saying. There is a significant difference between incidentally taking a photo of someone and intentionally taking one.

    I would think that anyone incidentally included in a photo would be acceptable, but I think that I could probably make a pretty good arguement to remove one intentionally taken of me depending on how it was used.

     

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  36.  
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    Name Anonymized to Hide My Shame, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 1:18pm

    Why would she even want those pictures back? Doesn't she know what I did with them?? They're all sticky now and...

    Huh? Ohhh, never mind. I think I misunderstood what the article was about.

     

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  37.  
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    kevjohn, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 1:23pm

    Re:

    My understanding is that the photographer owns the rights to just about anything they shoot. If you hire someone to take photos, you are buying the service not the rights to the photos. You can work out a separate deal to buy the rights, but that's between you and the photog. You can buy the rights, the negatives (or original files), the lens and the camera if you want, but you don't get any of that automatically just because you hired someone to take your picture.

     

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  38.  
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    Not AC, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 2:48pm

    Re:

    I think you missed the line:

    'though, you have to admit that it's odd that these photos were registered with the US copyright office.'

    Note that they WERE registered? Reading comprehension. It's your friend.

     

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  39.  
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    Rekrul, Jan 8th, 2010 @ 3:20pm

    The first and best nude photo of her can be seen on this page, along with a few other celebs;

    http://youexposed.net/celebs/celeb

    In it, she is clearly NOT holding a camera. However, she could very well have used a timer to take the photo. Most digital cameras today have them.

     

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  40.  
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    emule-project.net, Jan 9th, 2010 @ 12:36am

    vanessa hudgens nude photos

    this is just a publicity stunt. many pics have leaked out at various times by her. When she things we haven't heard of her in a while, she does things to make us hear about her. |The photos of her out are like many years old. i backed them up when they leaked and i found em so in case she tries to do something like this, they can be put back up. i doubt that a the ones that are up are going to be taken offline anyways.

     

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  41.  
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    zcat (profile), Jan 9th, 2010 @ 12:56am

    Re: Re:

    Not correcting; agreeing.

    It's my understanding that the Photographer gets the copyright unless it's specifically transferred / waived (thus copy-shops refusing to copy wedding photos, etc) but a model release is required before the photographer can do anything else with the photos. The photographer has 'copyright', the subject(s) has/have 'privacy rights' or something similar.

     

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  42.  
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    zcat (profile), Jan 9th, 2010 @ 1:18am

    Re: Re: Misc. points

    It depends on a combination of how prominently the people feature in the photo, and how much of a public figure they already are, and how commercial the use if it is. Putting photos of some random person on your website, possibly a problem. Putting photo of some random person on a billboard, very likely a problem. Putting photos of a celeb on your website, not a problem. Putting same celeb on an advertising billboard, very likely a problem. Putting photos of a crowd or a sports team on your website, no problem. Putting the same photos in an advertising billboard, possibly a problem... (in each case asssuming you own copyright and do not get model releases)

    In this case the subject is a celeb and I think therefore less protected because they're already not a 'private person', which is why they're doing the copyright thing instead.

     

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  43.  
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    Comboman, Jan 9th, 2010 @ 8:36am

    Re: Re: Misc. points

    The key phrase there is "If you are in public". I very much doubt that Hudgens was in public when naked pictures were taken of her, hence the need for a model release.

     

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  44.  
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    mdmadph (profile), Jan 11th, 2010 @ 6:54am

    Re:

    I don't see how, as pornography is a "we know it when we'll see it" kind of thing.

     

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  45.  
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    mdmadph (profile), Jan 11th, 2010 @ 6:56am

    The photos were registered with the US Copyright office because all "leaks" like this are just agent-created publicity stunts. The same goes for Paris Hilton's old video and, well, everything else involving sex, videos, or "celebrities."

     

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  46.  
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    known coward, Jan 11th, 2010 @ 8:27am

    vanessa hudgens photo's

    As my oldest boy is fixated on her and would be a stalker if he had any concept of what a stalker is and does (he is mentally handicapped), I am familiar with this issue.

    The pictures were taken by her, while she was underage, to send to a fellow she wanted to be her boyfriend.

    So yes there is a child pornography issue. And i think it is safe to say there is an intent to distribute child pornography issue here as well. i would think though that the photo's in general contstitue fair use for news "teen star girl makes ass of herself in child pornography ring" sort of way.

    At least my boy has good taste.

     

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  47.  
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    vanessa hudgens, Jan 20th, 2010 @ 8:08am

    you can find the pics here

    you can find all her nude pics and vids at http://vanessaannehudgensnaked.com

     

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  48.  
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    beeeeyoung, Feb 14th, 2010 @ 10:40pm

    idk about that, my fone has a timer. :]

     

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  49.  
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    vengey, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 3:35am

    hey people who seem to be in the know about copyright and such like
    I have a dilemma. So my boyfriend took a large amount of naked photos of some girl while skyping on my computer - so they are now saved onto my computer. I would quite like to upload said pictures on to the web with some humourous comments and her full name and email address etc. Is this risky? Who owns the copyright on these photos?

     

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  50.  
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    nah, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 4:57pm

    Re: Er...

    shes like 20, its all cool

     

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  51.  
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    esmeralda, May 8th, 2010 @ 11:44am

    ur messed up girl

     

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  52.  
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    esmeralda, May 8th, 2010 @ 11:45am

    ur messed up girl wat were u dinkin

     

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  53.  
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    natty, May 27th, 2010 @ 1:57am

    Not automatically child pornography

    Well, there're all those naked baby pics most families take. And we've been seeing naked baby bottoms on TV and in advertising for decades.

    But presumably, in this context we're referring more to the pubescent years -- say, ages 12 to 17. But even then plenty of examples can be found. The photography of Jock Sturges and David Hamilton, both of which feature extensive pubescent nudity, have been sold in the states for decades.

    And here's a short list of underage nudity in mainstream movies, listing actress (movie, age at time of photography):

    Brooke Shields (Pretty Baby, 12)
    Shirley Mills (Child Bride, 12)
    Olivia D'Abo (Bolero, 14)
    Keira Knightley (The Hole, 15)
    Olivia Hussey (Romeo & Juliet, 15)
    Thora Birch (American Beauty, 16)
    Milla Jovovich (Return to the Blue Lagoon, 16)
    Cristi Harris (Night of the Demons II, 16)
    Phoebe Cates (Paradise, 17)
    Michelle Johnson (Blame It on Rio, 17 - full frontal).

    Underage nudity is only illegal in the US if it involves lewd or lacivious conduct.

     

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  54.  
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    MJLOVER4EVERR, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 1:39pm

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  55.  
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    MJLOVER4EVERR, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 1:48pm

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  56.  
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    SWETTSEX, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 1:52pm

    Re: SORRY GUYS

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  57.  
    identicon
    MJLOVER4EVERR, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 1:56pm

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  58.  
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    SWETTSEX, Jul 19th, 2010 @ 2:00pm

    You're welcome!

    Hey, it was no problem, after seeing all those easy membership tasks, I thought I would give it a try! And wat you said was definetly true! Hey everyone! JOIN THE MJ DEBATE! Everything MJLOVER4EVERR said was true and NOT a lie! There isn't any fancy shmancy sighnups or anything! It was true! THANKS SO MUCH! RIP MJ!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59.  
    icon
    TheSteelGeneral (profile), May 22nd, 2011 @ 9:40am

    Re: Re: A little off...

    you pose a false dichotomy, aka Strawman:

    It's not the producers that were argued against earlier, but the photographer. The example that was given, was if you ask a random passerby to take a picture of you, HE then has the copyright. This is a ridiculous interpretation of the law, most anybody can see that.


    But even your strawman, the producers, are weak. It ain't necessarily so. I can see that you would think that, being a capitalist and all that, but it's actually the director. read a lawbook.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2011 @ 8:08pm

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jan 8th, 2010 @ 8:30am

    How would u know unless u looked at them urself

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  61.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2011 @ 8:08pm

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jan 8th, 2010 @ 8:30am

    How would u know unless u looked at them urself

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  62.  
    identicon
    Inquisitve, Aug 15th, 2012 @ 8:50am

    Were Hudgins, pix leaked for revenge?

    The nude shots were released just prior to the lawsuits by Johnny Vieira and Brian Schall...at the time they were fighting over royalties and reimbursements. Brian Schall paid $150,000 to start her career...could the pix be proof of the proverbial "casting couch"? Or could they have come from J.V. to get even with her for slighting HIM? Which brings up the question, could he have had an affair with an under-age girl who later dumped him?
    I'm curious as to what the FBI turns up in there current investigation of the nude photos scandle.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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