Italian political party NCD uses image without proper license?

Usually I wri­te my blog artic­les in German, but this time we will have a big Italian rea­der­ship, so to honor our new rea­ders I will ease it for them and use English.

What hap­pen­ed?

Yesterday I was infor­med by many Italian citi­zens that they found one of the illus­tra­ti­ons I offer for sale at stock agen­ci­es was used by the poli­ti­cal right-​wing par­ty NCD (Nuovo Centrodestra) in Modena in a con­text that is cle­ar­ly „anti-​gay“:

NCD advertisingThe ori­gi­nal image looks like this:

shutterstock gay couple 27-05-2015 18-10-16I offer the images at three stock pho­to agen­ci­es: Fotolia, Shutterstock and Bigstock.
All three have sold the – fair­ly new – image one time so far. But: All of the­se licen­ses have been „stan­dard licenses“.

Let’s have a quick look:

Fotolia sta­tes in their usa­ge terms:

3. Restrictions
3.1 General Restrictions. You must not misu­se the Work. Except as express­ly per­mit­ted in Section 2 abo­ve, you must not:[
[…] e. use, repro­du­ce, dis­tri­bu­te, per­form, modi­fy, or dis­play the Work (inclu­ding, wit­hout limi­ta­ti­on, by its­elf or in com­bi­na­ti­on with any other work of aut­hor­ship) in any man­ner that is libe­lous or slan­de­rous or other­wi­se defa­ma­to­ry, obs­ce­ne or indecent
[…] i. use the Work in a way that places any per­son in the pho­to in a bad light or depicts them in a way that they may find offen­si­ve – this includes, but is not limi­t­ed to:
[…] IV. poli­ti­cal endorsements“

Shutterstock says in their licen­se agree­ment:


  1. […] ii. Depict any per­son depic­ted in Visual Content (a „Model“) in a way that a reasonable per­son would find offen­si­ve, inclu­ding but not limi­t­ed to depic­ting a Model:
    […] c) as endor­sing a poli­ti­cal par­ty, can­di­da­te, elec­ted offi­ci­al, or opinion; […]
  2. Use any Visual Content in a por­no­gra­phic, defa­ma­to­ry, or decep­ti­ve con­text, or in a man­ner that could be con­side­red libe­lous, obs­ce­ne, or illegal.“

Bigstock, who is owned by Shutterstock, has very simi­lar image usa­ge agree­ment:


  1. […] Use any Content in a way that places any per­son depic­ted in the Content in a way that a reasonable per­son would find offen­si­ve – this includes, but is not limi­t­ed to the use of Content: […] d) in con­nec­tion with poli­ti­cal endor­se­ments; […] g) in any man­ner that is defa­ma­to­ry, or con­ta­ins unlawful or offen­si­ve content.“

 I still don’t know if NCD bought the image, becau­se I am still miss­ing feed­back from some of the agen­ci­es and my mail to the NCD has not yet been answered.

But let’s assu­me they did:
In my opi­ni­on the usa­ge would still be unlawful, becau­se it is „endor­sing a poli­ti­cal par­ty“ and is defa­ma­to­ry and offen­si­ve to dif­fe­rent groups of people.

Maybe it also means that the NCD is not able to read a con­tract (becau­se that’s what a licen­se agree­ment basi­cal­ly is), which might not be the best trait for a poli­ti­cal par­ty who wants to draft new laws.

I will con­sult with my lawy­er and will deci­de later if I will take legal action.

On a side note:
I am puz­zled why they had to remo­ve the hair of the guy on the right side? Is it becau­se he loo­ked too cute? Is it becau­se they serious­ly belie­ve that gay peo­p­le will loo­se all their hair? (I try hard to avo­id the pun with the „right wing loo­ses its hair“)

Just as a sign of what this gay cou­ple real­ly stands for (and to cele­bra­te Ireland’s vote for mar­ria­ge equa­li­ty) my team and me deci­ded to give away this image for free:

happy-gay-couple-with-rainbow-flagIt is free for pri­va­te and com­mer­cial use, but all the­se full licen­se terms of Shutterstock apply!
So just to be sure and to spell it out: No, NCD, you may not use it in a cam­paign against same-​sex mar­ria­ge and adoption!

If you are inte­res­ted in simi­lar images, here is a light­box with more illus­tra­ti­ons that can be licensened:
Diversity & Inclusion“ (Fotolia) or „Diversity & Inclusion“ (Shutterstock).

Have a gay day!

22 Gedanken zu „Italian political party NCD uses image without proper license?“

  1. Hi Robert

    I would sug­gest chan­ging the title of this post to some­thing that sounds less like a fact. Because I doubt your cla­im is cor­rect and with this fac­tu­al state­ment you are making yours­elf vulnerable.

    If you re-​read the licen­se terms you quo­ted, both are tal­king about a „per­son“. An illus­tra­ti­on with a car­too­nish cha­rac­ter is not a per­son. Unless they are cle­ar­ly based on real peo­p­le (which would requi­re you to obtain a model release), they are not peo­p­le, and so they don’t have any fee­lings or opi­ni­ons that could be vio­la­ted by mis-​using an image in a con­text they would­n’t support.

    I sup­port equal rights as well as you do. But I don’t see how you have a base for the cla­im you are making.



  2. Die Verwendung des Fotos ist durch die Lizenzbedingungen nicht gedeckt. Das ist eine Sache. Ob du mit juris­ti­schen Schritten Erfölg haben wirst, eine ande­re (immer­hin Italien!). Wie dem auch sei, die miss­bräuch­li­che Verwendung eines Bildes ist ver­werf­lich. Eine Frage, die sich mir stellt, ist, ob all die ita­lie­ni­schen Fotofreunde ähn­lich reagiert hät­ten, wenn das Bild bei den Postkommunisten ver­wen­det wor­den wäre? Denn, abge­se­hen von dem kla­ren Verstoß gegen die Lizenzbedingungen, der nicht in Ordnung ist, muss unse­re Gesellschaft (das gilt für Italien glei­cher­ma­ßen wie für ande­re west­li­che Länder) akzep­tie­ren ler­nen, dass es eben auch Meinungen gibt, die nicht dem Mainstream ent­spre­chen. Solange sich die poli­ti­schen Vertreter an die jeweils gül­ti­ge Verfassung hal­ten, sind es es demo­k­rat­si­che Meinungsvertreter, ob uns das passt oder nicht. Das ist Demokratie!

  3. @Michael: I added a ques­ti­on mark to the title to be on the safe side. But all the licen­se agree­ments cle­ar­ly sta­te that „poli­ti­cal endor­se­ment“ is for­bidden, regard­less whe­ther real peo­p­le are used in the image or not.

  4. To me, „per­son“ is well defi­ned in the law. And none of the terms are say­ing „you can not use any image we offer in poli­ti­cal con­text“. All tho­se limi­ta­ti­ons are strict­ly bound to images depic­ting a person.

    Well, I’m curious what your lawy­er will say about this. Let us know. 🙂

  5. It is a clear inf­rin­ge­ment of the copy­right. The image has been used for the defa­ma­ti­on of a group of peo­p­le and sub­ver­ting the obvious pur­po­se of the artist. And, in any case, I am quite sure that NCD (which in the city of Modena are not a major par­ty) did not buy the image. A legal action is due in order to expo­se their mala fides and to show that you are not asso­cia­ted with the anti-​gay move­ment (which would dama­ge your work a lot, I think) and would also result in free publi­ci­ty for you.

  6. Good job, Robert. Anyway, real­ly often our poli­ti­ci­ans are­n’t able to speak in a pro­per Italian, let alo­ne if they could read some­thing in English 🙂

  7. This is going to be fun to fol­low, but I’m hap­pi­ly sha­ring this. Especially the „right-​wing loo­ses its hair“ is abso­lut­e­ly hilarious.
    Just a small cor­rec­tion, I reck­on you mean Ireland, not Iceland, right? Our neigh­bours have pas­sed this law alre­a­dy in 2010, but still later than we did Norway 😉

    Best of luck

  8. @Jørg: You are right, it should have read „Ireland“, I cor­rec­ted it. But that’s no reason not to cele­bra­te Icelands decis­i­on as well 🙂

  9. Hello Robert,
    Thank you for defen­ding not only your work but also human rights.
    The fact that NCD can’t read a simp­le con­tract does­n’t sur­pri­se me, sin­ce the first phra­se of the sign sta­tes „No to dis­cri­mi­na­ti­ons“ and yet they dis­cri­mi­na­te homo­se­xu­als with the sign itself.


  10. I hope some day we will allow gay mar­ria­ge like Ireland… but I’m not very con­fi­dent we can do it. There’s too many poli­ti­ci­ans in Italy sim­ply can’t think to allow this kind of stuff, and unfort­u­na­te­ly there’s a lot of peo­p­le racists and omo­pho­bes. And it’s not only a right wing pro­blem, belie­ve me.

  11. I assu­me they can’t read English (as like Italian, any­way) pro­per­ly, but I fear they did­n’t even try to read your terms at all. This is the kind of poli­ti­cal class we have nowa­days, down here.

  12. Hello, I’m ita­li­an. Just a note: I’m sure that the NCD can’t read also ita­li­an state­ments, becau­se the slo­gan writ­ten on it is con­tra­dic­to­ry: they say „no to dis­cri­mi­na­ti­on“, that’s the oppo­si­te of the illus­tra­ti­on, then „no to the sur­ro­ga­te mother“ (actual­ly what does that have to do with dis­cri­mi­na­ti­on?) and final­ly: „no gay mar­ria­ge and no adop­ti­on for same sex fami­lies“ that abso­lut­e­ly con­flicts with the image and the first statement…More likely, they know very well that con­fu­sing peo­p­le works: This is the way ita­li­an right par­ties (NCD, Lega Nord, etc…) use to try to con­fu­se ita­li­an voters…(that are con­fu­sed enough wit­hout tho­se f***g tricks…).
    I wish you all the best and plea­se, keep in mind that the­re are also a lot of open min­ded peo­p­le down here… 🙂

  13. Hi Robert. I’m one of the guys of Modena that took the pho­to to say no to gay dis­cri­mi­na­ti­ons. The news yes­ter­day ‚explo­ded‘ in Modena and on social net­work. I’m glad that you’ll act in order to expo­se the mala fides of this NCD par­ty. If you need more info or help, we will sup­port you! Ciao!

  14. Hello, I am Italian and want to thank you for your artic­le and expl­ana­ti­on. People who used your image wron­gly must be asha­me of them­sel­ves, begin­ning from their point of view which divi­des citi­zens in class A and class B. And from histo­ry we learn, this kind of ideol­gy never brings to some­thing good. I also want to thank you for the effort to wri­te in English, even unfort­u­na­te­ly they will pro­ba­b­ly not be able to read it as well as German. No com­ment. Well, plea­se belie­ve, many Italians are not like that, and we are strugg­ling every day to chan­ge things here. We’ll arri­ve late, as always, but we’ll arri­ve (I hope) 🙂

  15. I think you could add to your post a trans­la­ti­on of what is writ­ten on the poster…
    I find it fun, it shows how con­fu­se the­se peo­p­le are:

    Children are not for sale!

    No to discriminations
    No to sur­ro­ga­te motherhood
    No to gay mar­ria­ge and gay adoption“

  16. All peo­p­le should con­cern that the­re are gay peo­p­le and not gay peo­p­le in the world.
    Both have the right to live and the right to say their opinion.
    The pic­tu­re of Robert is only a illus­tra­ti­on, no real peo­p­le are on it.
    I don’t under­stand why this is such a problem.

  17. I bet that they did­n’t buy the image, and I am stron­gly con­vin­ced that they cut the hair of one of the two cha­rac­ters becau­se they think that, chan­ging the image, they did­n’t vio­la­te the copyright.

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