from the oh-come-on dept
One of the points I made in that post was that it was awesome that no one even seemed to bring up the copyright question, because it was so obviously fair use that no one even bothered. Except... in an article about the anniversary, at the Guardian, it mentions that there actually was a copyright dispute about the dress. The woman who took it, Cecilia Bleasdale (who also bought and wore the dress at her daughter's wedding), apparently got upset that everyone else was getting so much attention from the dress and hired lawyers to go around demanding money for it.
It was and still is difficult for Bleasdale, who is 57, and Jinks, 47, to understand what happened, still less what they should do about it. Obviously, they had created something of immense value – though they did not know how they had created it, nor how valuable it was. As the photographer, Bleasdale owned the copyright, but at first she was neither consulted nor credited by McNeill or Buzzfeed....The article also notes that the company that made the dress, Roman Originals, that sold many, many, many, many more of them than it originally expected, offered her a free dress, but she asked them for more, and they stopped responding.
... Eventually, they engaged solicitors to chase up royalty payments, but the money so far collected (including from the Guardian) has not yet paid off the solicitors’ fees....
... Legal conversations are continuing with Buzzfeed. Perhaps something good may yet emerge from them.
That was in mid-December -- and the story also noted that the original Buzzfeed Tumblr post that made the whole thing so viral had been taken down. But I looked as I was writing this and it's back up. And then, buried deep, deep, deep in this insane oral history of the dress (and the llamas, and a few other big events from that day), Buzzfeed admits that it bought the copyright off of Bleasdale:
Cecilia Bleasdale, the original copyright owner of the photo of The Dress, had the photo taken down over a copyright issue. Earlier this year, BuzzFeed reached an agreement with Bleasdale to acquire the rights to the photo.But this is the fallacy of copyright in action. The idea that merely taking the picture "creates value." Note that line "they had created something of immense value." But that's wrong. It wasn't the act of photographing it that created the value. There was a happy accident in the lighting that really made the optical illusion work, and what created the value was the ability of the internet to make it viral. Taking credit for the viralness because she took the photo completely misses the point. Copyright assumes that it's solely the act of creation (a quick click of a cellphone camera button in this case) that creates all of the value. But it's not. It's the actions of so many other things, including the growth of the internet and sites like Buzzfeed, combined with social media like Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter -- and the power of all of you internet users that made the photo valuable. To go back after the fact and argue that there's a copyright issue here seems not just petty, but a perfect example of the kind of ridiculousness and "ownership" mentality that copyright creates.