Chictopia Users Find Themselves Unexpectedly Starring In Payless Ads

We’re still trying to wrap our brains around the bizarre intellectual property fiasco brought about by Payless Shoes and Chictopia. In a nutshell, several fashion bloggers who posted their own self-styled photos to Chictopia (a social network that allows users to upload pics and engage in an online community) unexpectedly found themselves featured in a campaign for Payless. From the bloggers’ side of things, several expressed that they wouldn’t have been so disturbed had Chictopia informed them of what was going on, and if they’d done so, the bloggers might actually have been into the idea. In an article on the website International Fashion Bloggers, one girl involved explains:

“I wear Payless shoes and they’re a huge company with a lot of reach, so I was excited to have gotten their attention. Then, when I clicked through the campaign, it struck me that this was not a mutually beneficial situation. The only people who stood to gain traffic or profit from the campaign were Chictopia and Payless. I was really disappointed because I would have loved to work one-on-one with Payless on a campaign if they were interested in my personal style and my outfits featuring their shoes, but instead they cut me out and worked on a deal with Chictopia instead.”

From Chictopia’s perspective, this was a matter of not reading the fine print. When users agree to the site’s terms of use, by uploading photos, “you grant Chictopia a worldwide, royalty-free, fully paid up, non-exclusive, sublicensable, right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, create derivative works of, perform publicly, display publicly, distribute, publish … ” etc., etc., etc. Meaning: Chictopia basically owns anything you choose to give to them. Here’s where things get complicated …

While Chictopia users may be bound to a contract they didn’t fully read or understand, there’s an implied moral irresponsibility. At the very least, Chictopia should have alerted the selected users to the situation, and, as per the codes of general internet/fashion blog etiquette, provide links back to sources.

Another murky issue concerns trademarking potentially done by the blogger beforehand. One commenter on the article points out that one user involved had used her blog name, Calivintage, as her Chictopia handle: “If Calivintage is or had been a registered trademark or copyright wouldn’t there be a legit cause for a legal action. Not because they used the picture, but because they used her name without permission, and attempted to profit from it? Every blogger should copyright and or trademark their intellectual property when time/money permits. Just my two cents. What are your thoughts on how we can better work with these companies?” Interesting point.

How would you feel if you submitted photos of yourself to an online community, only to find them re-purposed for advertising? Would you be to blame because you didn’t read the fine print? Or should there be a directed approval system approach to how collaborations like this happen? []