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Publicity Rights For A Photobombing Horse? Owner Demands Cut Of Photo Prize

from the ownership-society dept

We’ve written many, many words on the ridiculousness of publicity rights, and how they’re frequently abused to stifle perfectly reasonable activities. But this latest example really takes it up a notch. The owner of a horse in the UK is apparently demanding some of the prize a man won in a “selfie” contest, because the horse made a key “photobombing” appearance in the background, that likely contributed to the victory:

That photo was taken by the 3 year old kid in the picture, Jacob Bellis, and that’s his father, David, holding him. Nice photo! The horse in the background is named Betty, and is owned by Nicola Mitchell, who sounds like a person who perhaps needs to calm down a bit. From The Guardian:

Mitchell said: ?I was really annoyed to hear he had won a £2,000 holiday and had used a picture of our horse without our permission. He should have asked for our consent. There should be some token gesture as it is our horse that has really won them the holiday,? she said.

Mitchell added: ?I didn?t even know that this competition was on. If I had known about it we would have entered and could have won as Betty is always sticking out her tongue.?

There’s plenty to comment on here. First, as you can see, the reward was a holiday trip, and not cash, though apparently there was some confusion over that. So it’s not like it’s easy to “split.” Apparently Mitchell first demanded “half” of the prize. Second, (and importantly) you don’t need permission to photograph someone’s horse, especially when done from a public path. So the whole “without our permission” thing is complete nonsense. A token gesture might be a nice thing to do, but it’s not clear the best way to seek a “token gesture” is to angrily demand half of the prize. Perhaps a friendlier “Hey, that’s my horse, and that’s awesome!” would have been a better approach that would have made everyone happy, leading the Bellises to think about maybe giving something nice in return. Like, a treat for the horse or something.

Finally, the whole “If I had known about it we would have entered and could have won” bullshit, the response is but you didn’t. So stop whining. Perhaps next time such a contest is run you’ll be paying attention and you can answer. The whole response smacks of serious sour grapes.

Thankfully, the Guardian quotes a lawyer who agrees that Mitchell has no legal basis to complain. Of course, not too long ago, we thought the same thing about a monkey in a selfie, and then… PETA stepped in. So far its attempt to extend copyright law to monkeys has flopped, but perhaps its next attempt will be extending publicity rights to horses. I imagine that will fare similarly poorly.

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Comments on “Publicity Rights For A Photobombing Horse? Owner Demands Cut Of Photo Prize”

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49 Comments
David says:

Re: Re:

Shrug. My girl friend owns 9½ horses. And the other horse owners on the premise are reasonably ok. Pro tip: only offer stable places for people who clean their own boxes (and do their part of paddock cleanup). You may think that while you are at it anyway, you might as well earn the extra money and offer an all-inclusive. But that attracts the wrong kind of horse owners…

kallethen says:

Is there a betting pool

Of course, not too long ago, we thought the same thing about a monkey in a selfie, and then… PETA stepped in. So far its attempt to extend copyright law to monkeys has flopped, but perhaps its next attempt will be extending publicity rights to horses. I imagine that will fare similarly poorly.

Is there a betting pool on how long it’ll be before PETA gets involved? Put me down for two weeks.

David says:

How clueless.

Mitchell added: “I didn’t even know that this competition was on. If I had known about it we would have entered and could have won as Betty is always sticking out her tongue.”

I mean, the horse is not even sticking out its tongue on the picture. It’s taking in the smell of the humans (granted, horses’ way of doing that does look a bit silly to humans). It’s getting an impression rather than expressing anything.

Mitchell seems to have as much clue about horses as she has about photography rights.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Peta launches new copyright lawsuit in the UK.

After speaking with animal interpreters we have discovered that “Betty’s” real name is Naruto. We are filing suit to have all of the prize turned over to us so that we can protect the horses from the exploitative use by humans. Our goal is to license the photo out and use the proceeds to buy the entire country, force the humans out and establish the first horse empire.

DannyB (profile) says:

Publicity rights used to stifle legitimate activities?

Just like copyright is used as a censorship tool to stifle undesired speech?

And trademark is used to stifle the ordinary use of ordinary english words? (usages which are not commercially competing or causing market confusion)

And patents are used to stifle independent innovators who do the actual work to build something that someone else vaguely and poorly described on paper and then did nothing further.

I guess I left out trade secrets from the IP food groups. But I don’t remember any trade secrets being used to stifle anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Publicity rights used to stifle legitimate activities?

I don’t remember any trade secrets being used to stifle anything.

Also USL v BSDi: “mentally contaminated

… the argument that anyone who has ever seen UNIX source code is “mentally contaminated” and may never write another piece of code that is not subject to USL’s license.

IIRC, there once were T-shirts with the slogan “mentally contaminated.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Publicity rights used to stifle legitimate activities?

The mentally contaminated one is the same argument I remember from…

On a current note, the “Professors Letter in Opposition to the Defend Trade Secrets Act” raises mental contamination as its second major concern—although it does not use the catchy slogan:

2. The DTSA Appears to Implicitly Recognize The Inevitable Disclosure Doctrine

The current version of the DTSA also contains new language regarding injunctive relief that appears to implicitly recognize the so-called inevitable disclosure doctrine. If accurate, this would represent a profound shift in both the law governing the enforceability of non-compete agreements and trade secrets, particularly in jurisdictions that do not currently recognize the doctrine. . . .

Eric Goldman’s Technology & Marketing Law blog has been alerting people about the “Defend Trade Secrets Act” federal bill lately. And I just noticed that Freedom-to-Tinker also has a blog post up now concerning the bill.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Publicity rights used to stifle legitimate activities?

I don’t remember any trade secrets being used to stifle anything.

Also, the warrant affidavit for the Steve Jackson Games raid repeats that the E911 file (valued at $79,000) warns:

NOTICE: NOT FOR USE OR DISCLOSURE OUTSIDE BELL SOUTH OR ANY OF ITS SUBSIDIARIES EXCEPT UNDER WRITTEN AGREEMENT.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

If the horse owner was smart, they’d use that pic (or refer to it in the case someone else is all copyright batshit) and start a page somewhere, with lots of cute photos of their horse sticking out tongue and stuff. “This is Betty, the funny horse you all know and love from blah blah selfie contest winner Jacob Bellis’ pic!”

How stupid can you be? Go on, monetize the fk out of it.

Capt ICE Enforcer says:

Not again

Not again, it seems like last week I brought up the horrors of monkeys no longer have incentives to create. And now this, obviously the horse directed this photo. Why are humans always trampling over animals rights. Keep this up and we will never get the sequel to Mr. Ed. It is like horses have feelings too, and a vacation is just what the doctor ordered.

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