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Delta Airlines Now Using Hashtag in Order to Grab Rights to Use Customers' Images

In what is becoming an increasingly common practice among commercial brands, Delta Airlines has begun trying to sneakily claim image rights to any photo posted on Instagram with the hashtag #SkyMilesLife.

Last year, we reported how UK food delivery company Deliveroo was encouraging users of the social media platform to use a hashtag as a means of gaining the rights to use people's photos for their commercial gain. Another culprit was Hilton Hotel in 2019, which would comment on a photographer’s post, attempting to have them give away the rights through flattery. Oftentimes, the small print is made difficult to access, with many photographers getting swept away in the compliment, not quite realizing the extent of what they’re signing away.

Now, Delta has been found to be encouraging customers to post photos of their experience and has even erected billboards in support of their campaign. Photographer David Bergman spotted one in an airport, posting details of it on his social media. What may seem innocent to the untrained eye, however, has deeper undertones. The fine print reads:

By tagging photos using #SkyMilesLife and/or #DeltaMedallionLife, user grants Delta Air Lines (and those they authorize) a royalty-free, world-wide, perpetual, non-exclusive license to publicly display, distribute, reproduce and create derivative works of the submissions (“Submissions”), in whole or in part, in any media now existing or later developed, for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and promotion on Delta websites, commercial products and any other Delta channels, including but not limited to #SkyMilesLife or #DeltaMedallionLife publications. Delta reserves the right to use or not use content tagged #Skymileslife and/or #DeltaMedallionLife and user will not be entitled to compensation if photo is used.

User grants to Delta (and those they authorize), the irrevocable and unrestricted right to use, re-use, publish and re-publish, and copyright his or her performance, likeness, picture, portrait, photograph, in any media format, in whole or part and/or composite representations, in conjunction with my name, including alterations, modifications, derivations and composites thereof, throughout the world and universe for advertising, promotion, trade, or any lawful purposes.

One read of the rules tells you that all rights are signed away, with the company allowed unlimited usage, indefinitely. And the sneaky inclusion of the fine print seems to be working, as more than 100,000 images have, likely unsuspectingly, been uploaded using the hashtag. Quite the result for Delta!

Lead image Jean Cont from Pexels.

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18 Comments

Tony Clark's picture

Because these Multi-National Corporations don't have the budget to promote their products and services, let alone compensate the creators of the images.

Fred Teifeld's picture

Its simple. Either dont use their hashtags or just to have some fun, as I suggested on the other site is to post:

Honor those businesses by flooding with imagery of turds, garbage, soiled diapers, animals taking a crap, overflowing toilets.... anything moderately to extremely gross enough to be the polar opposite of what these corporate image thieves would want to grab the rights to.

cameramanDop Shanghai Hong Kong's picture

What if they do something like #beautifull as register hashtag?

Fred Teifeld's picture

A good question but their hashtags have to do with their brand so the odds of that are highly unlikely, IMO.

chris bryant's picture

I am going to do that for a laugh.

Fred Teifeld's picture

By all means, I'd love to hear how it works out!

cameramanDop Shanghai Hong Kong's picture

By tagging photos using #visionrouge, user grants me a royalty-free,...

How come they can register to them a hastag ?

IGOR BRALGIN's picture

Posting anything on Instagram, as well as on other social media platforms, we have already granted to those platforms something like "a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings)."

What is a big deal to grant the same rights to one or few more corporations adding the hashtags? :) (This is definitely a joke... but only partially)

James Troi's picture

Well, no... the platforms usage rights are to allow them to host your images on multiple servers and mirror them and display worldwide. Most of that verbiage was added after some idiot tried to sue one of the companies because they made copies of the works by storing them in server farms. It isn't about them being able to sell or market using your images.

IGOR BRALGIN's picture

>>It isn't about them being able to sell or market using your images.

At least one precedent was discussed here: https://fstoppers.com/legal/new-york-court-rules-posting-instagram-photo...

The cort ruled that the Instagrammers grant Instagram a right to sub-license the photographs to third parties.

Andrew Eaton's picture

You could have a lot of fun and create yourself a burner account and post lots of other famous photographers photos, Preferably ones where there images on major agencies. Might not end well for them :-) tehehehe

Daniel Medley's picture

Some pencil pushing bean counter with a MBA probably got a nice quarterly bonus for pitching this idea, and having it put into place.

James Troi's picture

I doubt it would take much to contest such a thing... the use of a hashtag surely can't grant them carte blanch control of your imagery. Even those big terms of services you click through on platforms and software have found to not hold much water when contested because no one ever reads them. And in the case of a hashtag... it would surely only be binding if when I added a protected tag it came up with an agreement letting me know what I was signing up for. Not some random page on the web somewhere that detailed what using a hashtag would mean. People slam words together all the time in a hashtag, doesn't mean someone else gets to own the rights to their work if they stumble upon one of these things.

Bruce Grant's picture

But they have more lawyers and can afford to pay them longer than you and I ever will or care to.

chris bryant's picture

How about using the hashtag #buggeroffdelta

Christian Lainesse's picture

#MileHighClub

Simon Hartmann's picture

I am no lawyer, but i still do know for certain this form of „contract“ wouldnt count for anything. Its a case of „unexpected clause“. Also the „Deal“ made by the poster is only bad for him, so since in court the flying company didnt offer any form of compensation this is hardly going to hold up. I would love to hear the outcome if somebody sued them for this.

Only because something is writen in plain text, doesnt always mean its actually lawful. ESPECIALLY when were talking internet and commercial use of creative work.

alberto cabrera's picture

They can't just use the photos. The problem is that Delta cannot use the images in a non for profit manner. They still need to get permission from the image owner to use it commercially or in any branding effort. There have already been several cases in favor of the image owners. The question is if the person has the money to take Delta to court. The sad truth is that most do not or don't even realize their images are being used.

Also, no one "owns" a hashtag. You can start one, but anyone can use it, and you can't stop people from posting whatever to that hashtag.

The other thing, their disclaimer has no power. Unless the language is included within the reservation process and you personally agree to the disclaimer. They still can try to claim they provided plenty of notice on how the images would be used, still its not a binding contract that grants them full ownership of the images.

Delta, just has to piss off the wrong individual that has the money and time to file a class action law suit.