October 26, 2016

Graham Ashton

Case of Image Theft by Trump Jr. Escalated into a Lawsuit

trump-jr-image theft
Featured Image: Gage Skidmore

Remember last month when there was a media uproar involving Donald Trump Jr. and a photographed bowl of Skittles? Today, we have received news from the photographer's lawyer that David Kittos (the original photographer) is escalating the case into a lawsuit against not only Trump Jr., but Donald Trump, his campaign, AND Michael Pence.

Read more for the full legal complaint and more information.

trump-jr-image theft-make-america-great-again

The offending tweet from the Republican nominee's son compared Syrian refugees to a partially poisoned batch of candy and featured the image pictured above (stolen off of Flickr). The irony came when the photographer, David Kittos, revealed that he was a refugee who had fled the Republic of Cyprus when he was only six years old. Outrage came from Twitter, journalists, and even the Mars Inc., the manufacturer of Skittles.


— Mars, Incorporated (@MarsGlobal) September 20, 2016

Not only did Trump Jr. use the worst possible photo regarding campaign damage, but now the photographer David Kittos has filed a formal legal complaint against both Donald Trumps, vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence, and the entire Trump campaign organization. Read more from excerpts from the full legal complaint, as well as the exhibits for the case.

Kittos and his legal team claim the image was unlawfully and deliberately shared on social media, with the aim of influencing public opinion in the 2016 elections. The case document even references a similar legal incident from earlier this year, in which two photographers sued Trump Sr. for selling campaign signs featuring their iconic photo of an American bald eagle, and encouraging its reuse among supporters. It then delves into Trump's unauthorized uses of Kitto's photograph:


The key difference, in this case, is the viral exposure of Kitto's image, illustrating how volatile such image theft can become during a US election. Shared thousands of times across multiple social media platforms, such a rampant infringement suggests a complete disregard for the exclusive rights of the photographer. It was Twitter who had to remove the image after a request from Kitto's legal counsel, even though extensive media coverage made it clear that the use of the image was unlawful. See below for the full contents of the legal claim related to the virality of the tweet:


The big question to ask now is: will this go to court? Donald Trump previously came to a confidential agreement with the bald eagle photographers (despite claims that he rarely settles lawsuits), but in a previous interview for the BBC, Kitto himself said:

"This isn't about the money for me. They could have just bought a cheap image from a microstock library. This is pure greed from them. I don't think they care about my feelings. They should not be stealing an image full stop."

"If a photographer is determined enough to protect his work, especially when he found the use of his photo reprehensibly offensive based on his background, then we may see this particular legal action go all the way to the final quarter."

Graham Ashton

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