So, what exactly does eating at Chipotle have to do with taking pictures you ask? Good question. Here’s the answer. Last year I published a short post about using photographs in your social media. Sadly, at least for one photographer, the information in my blog post was not available for review when he made a serious mistake.
A few years ago, Chipotle hired the photographer to take pictures inside their stores so that Chipotle could use the photographer’s images in their advertising. During the course of the photo shoot, the photographer captured a number of images, including at least one photo of a woman named Leah Caldwell who was eating at the restaurant.
After taking her picture, the Chipotle photographer asked the woman to sign a photo release, giving Chipotle permission to use her photo, but Ms. Caldwell declined. Fast forward a few years into the future and Ms. Caldwell was surprised to see her image on the wall of a Chipotle restaurant located in Orlando, Florida. She also claims that she saw the same image on several restaurants located in California as well.
Ms. Caldwell subsequently filed a lawsuit against Chipotle, claiming $2.2 Billion in damages. The basis for Ms. Caldwell’s lawsuit is that Chipotle used her image without her permission. While Ms. Caldwell is claiming a violation of her expectation of privacy, the real problem is that you’re not allowed to use someone’s image for commercial purposes without their permission. You can read more about this story here.
While Chipotle is unlikely to pay $2.2 billion to Ms. Caldwell, no business wants to spend time and money fighting a lawsuit. Whether she can win her lawsuit or not remains to be seen, but Chipotle could have avoided this situation by simply not using Ms. Caldwell’s image without her permission.
So, the moral of the story is simple. If you’re going to take pictures of people and use them for commercial purposes, get a photo release. If you don’t get a release, don’t use the photo.