A few weeks ago we posted an article about the correct way to repost User Generated Content on Instagram, and lo-and-behold the issue raised its head in the fallout from Fashion Month. A group of street-style photographers including several heavy-weights (whose images you have probably seen, although probably without credit), have banded together with the hashtag #NoFreePhotos to protest the unauthorised use of their images.
The street-style cycle often starts with an influencer being snapped (either organically or by pre-arrangement with a photographer) and using the pictures on social media to grow his or her own profile. From there consumer fashion media use images for street-style galleries, and brands reuse the images for their own gain. All of this often without a cent to the photographer, unless the influencer paid the photographer for taking the initial photos, which sometimes happens. According to some photographers, reposting pictures with tags and the correct credits are not enough, as the photographs are copyright-protected and the photographer's work is used with no financial compsensation. So why do photographers do the work if they aren't going to get paid (and often have to spend their own money to cover shows)? Often in hopes of gaining exclusive contracts with magazines, which are few and far between. Many photographers have directed the blame at influencers, who apparently reap more of a financial reward than they do, and are some of the main perpetuators of the reposting (which is in order to fulfil brand obligations).
Some influencers are now pointing out that they do not benefit financially from the street-style system - as often they will only get to borrow clothing in order to attend a show and be photographed in the new season garments. While gifting is commonplace with the highest tier of influencers, many influencers with smaller reach do not get any financial reward from brands, and are required to return garments after attending a show. However, their presence in new-season outfits provides a PR boost for the brand which undoubtedly fuels countless sales. While influencers do score invites to Fashion Weeks worldwide, often this is at their own expense. Subsequently pictures of them are used without their permission all over the internet and in consumer print media - when influencers have signed no image release forms. In some locations, use of a person's image without their consent is illegal.
Obviously street style images and social media content are now major tools in driving hype and increasing revenue for brands, yet both are difficult to measure - unlike traditional consumer print media and advertising. So what is the next step? While aspiring photographers and influencers are still entering the cycle, and willing to work for free in hopes of increasing their profile, it seems that the cycle will perpetuate. For fashion brands using street-style snaps as part of their marketing - check hashtags before re-gramming or using as you may find yourself on the wrong side of a copyright infringement.