Help: I Am Being Sued for Nearly $500,000 by a Model I Photographed

Hello fellow photographers. My name is Joshua Resnick. I am a stock photographer, but what I am going to tell you potentially affects all photographers. I wanted to bring to your attention a lawsuit I am involved in that I think could put the whole industry at risk if things don’t go well.

I am being sued in federal court for hundreds of thousands of dollars by a model I worked with in January 2013. This is a model that I paid, and who signed a release allowing me to sell her images through stock photo agencies. Why I am I being sued? It revolves around images that got misused or were just outright stolen and the model is blaming me for it.

It seems that many of her pictures ended up on erotic book covers, escort ads, and strip club ads. To my understanding she is claiming I either sold these directly to these people or through Shutterstock. As for myself, I only sold her images through a stock agency with a terms of service that did not allow pornographic/defamatory use — I have never sold an image of hers directly to someone.

The images I took were also posted by the model on her Facebook page, and eventually I even found pirate sites giving away the images for free. So it is very possible these misuses could have been from her Facebook or from those pirate sites, and it is also possible someone could of bought the image from an agency but potentially broke the TOS. I don’t know exactly what happened yet, but that’s my best guess.

My case has unfortunately received national attention in publications such as the New York Post, the Daily Mail and Fox News, none of which have bothered to explain my side of the story.

If they had not ignored my side of the story, here is what they would have reported: the model was an experienced lingerie model, appearing on a magazine cover in such apparel. I told her agent before the shoot it would be used for stock photography.

During the shoot I also told the model that the images would be for sale for stock photography and explained how stock photography works. I explained to her that these agencies prohibit pornographic use in their terms of service. Another person who often helped me from time to time was present during the shoot and witnessed everything.

I said nothing more and I didn’t lie. I did NOT promise her that her images would not be misused — that’s impossible in our right-click-save-as days. She saw the images before signing the model release, was happy with them and posted them herself on her Facebook page.

Another misconception that seems to be in the news pieces and the complaint is that our arrangement was TFP or Trade for Portfolio use. I paid her via her agent through Paypal and have all the records of it, even providing her gas money to travel to Columbus where the photo shoot was done.

If the court rules in her favor, it could create a dangerous incentive for other models to do the same and try to hold photographers liable for things that are out of our control. Basically, a model release could mean nothing to protect you. All they would need to do is claim there was some sort of oral agreement and it would be void.

Also, I am not the only photographer this has happened to, but as far as I know none of these photographer’s cases are public record and were settled out of court or with non-disclosure agreements or are currently unsettled. Mine being public record and such a high profile is important to win for photographers because of the example it could set.

Defending yourself against even completely false accusations will cost almost anyone a huge amount of money. A common misconception is that when you win in court, you get your attorneys fees paid. That’s not always the case. Even if I do win, this case will likely be financially devastating either way.

On January 7th, I set up a crowd funding campaign to raise the funds that would allow me to defend myself in this case. The case is in New York now and I’m facing a huge financial burden to protect myself and our industry in general. Knowledgeable copyright lawyers cost an absolute fortune. I want to defend myself to the extent I can given my funding to discourage models in the future from bringing forth similar actions.

About the author: Joshua Resnick is a stock photographer based in Columbus, Ohio. You can find a selection of his images here. His case was previously covered by PetaPixel back in 2014.