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Most people sign up for social media platforms without taking the time or effort to read the platform’s Terms of Use. A recent decision from the Southern District of New York illustrates why this may be a risky proposition for professional photographers, artists or anyone who values their creative intellectual property. The decision in Sinclair v. Ziff Davis and Mashable, 18-CV-790 (KMB) by District Judge Kimba M. Wood considered a claim by a photojournalist, Stephanie Sinclair, arising from an article posted on the news website Mashable, which included one of Sinclair’s photographs without a direct license or payment to her.

As a noted professional photographer, Sinclair maintained her own searchable website to showcase her photographs to potential customers. She also had an account on Instagram, one of the world’s most popular platform for photo and video-sharing. Sinclair’s photograph, titled “Child, Bride, Mother/Child Marriage in Guatemala” (the photograph) was the source of the dispute. The photograph was posted by Sinclair on Instagram and her account was set on the “public” mode, meaning any user on Instagram could view Sinclair’s postings.

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