Florida-based photographer Kiersten Grant was at the Miracle Strip Amusement Park with her daughter Mylie recently when she came across a board near a ticket line that featured a girl that looked surprisingly like Mylie.
After taking a closer look, Grant was surprised to discovered that it was Mylie.
Grant says that she later discovered multiple uses of her photos by the theme park, both online and in print — advertisements with her daughter’s face that she never authorized.
“How would you feel about a company stealing pictures of your child and using them for advertising?” Grant writes on her Facebook page. “That’s exactly what has happened to me […] and I’m not happy about it.”
She then reached out to the park about this usage and to work out some kind of deal for future usage. Here’s a copy of the email she sent:
My name is Kiersten Grant of Kiersten Grant Photography. I was recently at your park with my daughter and noticed one of my professional images used for some advertising. One problem is there was no permission given for the use of this image, the use of this photo without my permission as the copyright owner is a violation of Federal Copyright Law (U.S.C. 17). Also, the use of this photo which depicts my minor daughter without my permission is a violation of Florida Statute 540.08 Unauthorized publication of name or likeness.
One of my largest concerns is what if this was one of my clients? That is why obtaining proper permission from me for the use of my photos is crucial; it affects my business reputation and could be a legal liability for me also.
You should have received or will be receiving a copyright infringement notice from my professional association, Professional Photographers of America (PPA). Though PPA is now aware of this case, I would prefer handling this between your business and mine.
I will not even require that you cease use of the image if you are willing to cooperate to reach a satisfactory conclusion. I plan to be very reasonable in reaching this resolution.
I am a well-known local professional photographer and would like to maintain a positive working relationship with your business. I may even be willing to provide you with professional photographs for advertising purposes in the future, I feel my vibrant and colorful style would be a great match for future Miracle Strip advertisement, but I would like to ensure that you receive proper permission and that I receive fair but reasonable compensation and appropriate credit. My business has a good reputation in the area which is very important for me to maintain. I want to ensure optimum quality of any of my photos which will be used especially when displaying my logo and for that reason I require the approval I am legally entitled to.
I would like you to contact me as soon as possible. I will be reasonable about my requests, and I would like to resolve this quickly and without any unnecessary conflict.
Thank you for your time.
Here’s how Miracle Strip Amusement Park responded to the email:
After seeing this reply, Grant turned to her Facebook page to inform the photography community of the exchange:
In my opinion, what I got back was nothing short of rude and unprofessional […] I talked to an attorney who told me that this was clearly an infringement on my copyrights but the cost to enforce it was going to be in the thousands of dollars. Plus, even if I win, that only helps me and I don’t want to this continuing to happen to others […]
As you see in the screenshot, they turn this whole thing back around on me. They gave me an ultimatum to pay a fee for shooting on location or drop the issue. I’ve never seen or heard anything about this fee. It was not listed on their website, it’s not listed on signs at Miracle Strip, or printed on their tickets. Furthermore, no one has ever asked me to stop taking pictures or leave, whether with clients or my family (and my big, professional, not-very-subtle camera) […]
Obviously, from this point on I will not be shooting there. I’m not paying a ridiculous fee to somebody who I feel like stole pictures of my daughter and used them for their own gain. This whole thing is saddening me because I liked taking my family and clients there. Now I don’t even want to go there for fun.
Miracle Strip Amusement Park, a “mom and pop operation,” sees the situation differently. Owner Jenny Meeks tells PetaPixel that Kiersten knows her daughter and that she had asked the park to share her photos over the years while building her business. She even left a “kissy, winky face” comment when a photo of Mylie was shared on Facebook last year, Meeks says.
What started this whole dispute was the signage in the park, though, and it appears the park didn’t ask for explicit permission regarding this particular usage. Meeks says they had been directed by Grant to a Facebook album that asked people to share Grant’s photos as long as credit was given:
The permission to share clearly wasn’t intended to include physical park signage, so the park’s mistake was printing the photo on a sign — even though the watermark was intact:
Grant was surprised by this usage, and it was the park’s response to her email turned this private matter into a public controversy.
“I didn’t ask them for money, I didn’t ask them to take it down,” Grant writes, “I simply asked them to ask me for future permissions and to give me the chance to give them a current quality image to represent my business correctly.”
Meeks tells PetaPixel that the park is apologetic about its initial response.
“I will say I want to wring my husband’s neck for the poorly worded reply to her letter,” she says. “It should have been written differently.”
“Due to Kiersten’s post on Facebook, we now have had numerous threats of bodily harm, property damage, and loss of business as well as continued threats of boycotts.”
Update on 7/11/15: Grant has posted another update on Facebook with more details from her side of the story.