Swedish luxury automobile marque, Volvo, put itself in the center of attention after a recent incident involving the car manufacturer using photographer Jack Schroeder’s pictures without permission. The company then filed a legal motion, claiming it could use any photo publicly shared on Instagram.
Schroeder’s photos in question featured the Volvo S60, along with model Britni Sumida posing in front of the car. The 2019 photoshoot was posted on Instagram and caught the attention of Volvo which approached Schroeder to ask if they could use them for their advertising campaign to promote the S60 on social media. Jack presented Volvo with his terms and requested compensation, to which Volvo did not care and re-shared the images anyway, something Schroeder did not entirely expect.
He then sent a complaint to Volvo. The lawsuit stated that Volvo responded in an “aggressive and intimidating letter” to a production company Schroeder was affiliated with, instead, and threatened to sue that production company for featuring the Volvo trademarked logo in a 20-second video. The model Sumida is also suing Volvo. Her reason was mainly due to Volvo harming her career by posting the photos. She was on track to model for a campaign with another car maker, but the commission was seemingly canceled due to an exclusivity clause in her contract that stops her from working with competitors in the same industry.
“The global creative community should be on high alert, and @instagram should speak up immediately. If courts agree with Volvo, and your photos can be used by any company for any purpose without your permission, what would you do? Make your profile private? Or just delete Instagram?” Jeff Gluck, the lawyer representing Schroeder and Sumida, expressed in a statement.
This incident sadly isn’t anything new. Large companies are known to repurpose public images or works of art for commercial gain. Last year, Mercedes-Benz featured a series of Detroit murals in its advertisements and even went on to sue the artists who made the artworks.