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.

Filed Under: horse, jealousy, photobomb, publicity rights, selfie


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  • icon
    Oblate (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 10:39am

    If they owe anyone...

    If they do anything, they should take the horse on vacation. It's probably better company than Mr. Mitchell.

    Maybe they'll at least send Mr. Mitchell some pictures of their vacation, as that would be proportionate to his contribution.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 10:47am

      Re: If they owe anyone...

      He is a she.

      "Nicola Mitchell"

      If it had been my horse I think I would have asked for a print, stuck it on the fridge, and smiled every time I looked at it and thought about how that little boy has a great photo to show his grandkids one day.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 10:43am

    She owns a horse. None of her reaction surprises me of what I know of most horse owners.

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

    • identicon
      David, 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:13am

      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...

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

  • identicon
    kallethen, 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:00am

    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.

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

    • icon
      Nathan F (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:06am

      Re: Is there a betting pool

      Does PETA have a UK branch? Cause I would imagine it would be difficult for them to bring a publicity case to court when the photo is owned by a little boy in the UK.

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

  • identicon
    David, 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:02am

    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.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:16am

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 1:23pm

      Re: Peta launches new copyright lawsuit in the UK.

      Don't be fooled, scratch any horse supremacy movement, and you'll find ponies underneath.

      Ponies all the way down.

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

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 2:35pm

        Re: Re: Peta launches new copyright lawsuit in the UK.

        shhhh first rule of pony club is not to mention pony club until it is to late

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

        • icon
          ltlw0lf (profile), 4 Feb 2016 @ 8:21am

          Re: Re: Re: Peta launches new copyright lawsuit in the UK.

          shhhh first rule of pony club is not to mention pony club until it is to late

          Has anyone notified Ken White?

          I think he might need to light some signal to let everyone know the ponies are coming.

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

  • identicon
    RD, 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:17am

    Ownership Culture

    Ownership Culture. Learn to love having it shoved straight up your ass at every opportunity.

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

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 6:02pm

      Re: Ownership Culture

      And the horse owner got publicity that was not paid for. Seems the photographer might be owed some money over that in our ownership culture...

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

  • identicon
    RR, 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:20am

    What!?

    No jackass jokes?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:24am

      Re: What!?

      Isn't that movie copyrighted? I bet there was a trademark on the name as well. Be prepared to send your check.

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

  • icon
    Adam (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:26am

    Maybe the could have won...

    If the contest was open to a horses ass.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 1:21pm

      Re: Maybe the could have won...

      Even then, would she really have had the horse sense to participate?

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

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 4 Feb 2016 @ 10:51am

      Re: Maybe the could have won...

      If the contest was open to a horses ass.

      I think that horse's ass is causing Betty a loss of reputation. PETA should sue her; the horse's ass, I mean.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:27am

    In other news, Adidas UK also wants a part of the prize money because the selfie wouldn't have won without the picturesque stocking cap that the gentleman is seen wearing.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2016 @ 8:49am

      Re:

      Good point. There are also some buildings in the background, there must be an architect feeling entitled somewhere.

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:39am

    Possible typo

    I imagine that will fare similarly poorly.
    Perhaps you meant:
    I imagine that will fare similarly hilariously.

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:47am

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 1:05pm

      Re: Publicity rights used to stifle legitimate activities?

      I don't remember any trade secrets being used to stifle anything.
      DVD CCA v Bunner. Wikipedia references the EFF page via an alternate link.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 1:24pm

      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.”

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 1:35pm

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

        IIRC, there once were T-shirts with the slogan “mentally contaminated.”
        Badges, with “MENTALLY CONTAMINATED” in large red letters, made by Rick Adams.

        But there may have been T-shirts, too. Or not. My memory these days… oh, geezers. I'm not old.

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

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 2:53pm

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

        The mentally contaminated one is the same argument I remember from SCO vs IBM. (Which is still ongoing, in some sense of the word. It is worth checking up on the progress of the SCO vs IBM case about every one quarter of a galactic turn.)

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 4:01pm

          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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 2:15pm

      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.

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

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 11:58am

    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.

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

  • icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 12:13pm

    Don't Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

    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.
    What about a one-way ticket?

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

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 3 Feb 2016 @ 12:28pm

    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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 12:38pm

    If Techdirt had audio...

    ...Jerrod Niemann's "The Bucking Song" would be a perfect response!

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

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 4:07pm

    He'll find a lawyer to make a name for himself

    Thankfully, the Guardian quotes a lawyer who agrees that Mitchell has no legal basis to complain.
    Unthankfully, there's always a lawyer who will take a case like this to make a name for himself. Sure, they can't win, but look at all the people that will talk about him.

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

  • icon
    connermac725 (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 4:41pm

    Nicola Mitchell

    what a fool now everyone knows what kind of douche baggery he employs
    shame on you picking on a 3 year old

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

  • icon
    G Thompson (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 10:16pm

    Token Gesture

    I'm sure now a fair few people could give this horse's owner a token gesture or two..

    Not sure if the token gesture, or even the gesture of "the bird" is what they wanted though. But hey it's what they deserve

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2016 @ 1:59am

    "I asked the horse if it minded being in the photo and it said neigh!" - sorted.

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

  • icon
    Paul Alan Levy (profile), 4 Feb 2016 @ 4:11am

    But WE own the park

    You won that vacation-photo contest by taking a picture of yourself standing on that breathtaking spot on a tough trail in the park. But WE own the park. So pay up - we get to split the prize.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2016 @ 5:12am

    What goes around comes around

    If David and Jacob Bellis owe Nicola Mitchell because her horse is in the picture then Nicola Mitchell owes Mr. Ed's rights holders money for copying his pose.

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

  • identicon
    Lisboeta, 4 Feb 2016 @ 5:22am

    Prize-worthy it may have been, but I clearly the horse shares many people's views of selfies....

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

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 4 Feb 2016 @ 10:41am

    Get stuffed, Nicola.

    I would've cropped out the horse and kept the kid and his dad. It might've still won. Cute kid, happy proud dad. Who doesn't love that sort of thing?

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


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