Volvo is trying to get a lawsuit brought by an automotive photographer thrown out of California court on the basis that it has the right to use any image it wants from Instagram, without compensation or permission.
The entire fiasco started in April 2019, when photographer Jack Schroeder and model Britni Sumida took some images during southern California’s wildflower superbloom featuring a Volvo S60 as a prop for a private portfolio shoot. Schroeder posted a few images on his account on Instagram, and Volvo reached out twice asking for the rights to use of the images. The website PetaPixel has what happened next:
Schroeder refused this offer and instead reached out to Volvo over email to see if they were interested in licensing his images. He never heard back, but then in November he saw his photos—including two that never appeared on Instagram but were allegedly posted to Behance—pop up on Volvo’s Instagram and Pinterest accounts.
The infringement obviously upset Schroeder, but it was arguably a bigger deal for Sumida, who was now in violation of an active modeling contract she’d signed with another car maker. After multiple failed attempts to address the issue with Volvo directly, the duo ultimately filed a lawsuit, which brings us up to this week…
In an attempt to get the suit thrown out, Volvo has filed a pretty aggressive motion. Not only do they claim that Instagram grants them a sublicense to re-share any public photo—something that IG has officially denied in the past—the motion also claims that “because Schroeder set his account to ‘public,’ Schroeder granted Volvo a direct license to re-share the Instagram Photographs,” referencing Instagram’s TOS about how User Content may be “re-shared by others” once you’ve made it public.
Volvo also claims that by tagging the automaker’s account Schroeder “...granted Volvo an implied non-exclusive license to share the Instagram photographs.”
Should Volvo be successful, it could lead to greater exploitation of artists and content creators who depend on social media to create a brand for themselves, not to mention just the average car enthusiast posting to their accounts. At least, until Instagram updates its broadly worded Terms of Service.
You can read Volvo’s complete argument below: