Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Published on under The News

When you upload something to the internet, it’s there forever. There’s no good way to take it back down off the internet, and you never know what kind of creep is going to get your hands on your spring break photos. For instance, you would never expect that your high school administrators would be that creep:

University of Georgia freshman Chelsea Chaney is suing the school district of her former high school after a photo pulled from her Facebook page was used in a district-wide presentation on what not to do on social media accounts. 17 years old at the time, the photo shows Chaney wearing a bikini while posing next to a cardboard cutout of rapper and singer-songwriter Snoop Lion. In addition to the photo, the Powerpoint slide included her Facebook profile name underneath the photo and the title of slide was “Once It’s There, It’s There to Stay.”

This was a month or two ago, and I’m sure the two parties have settled out by now. (Due in no small part to Chaney suing for $2 million. Yikes.) I think this is a real teachable moment for the school administrators here. A few things come to mind. Let’s start with the obvious:

Don’t Be Creepy

No, seriously, don’t be creepy. It’s bad enough if you’re a middle aged guy with pictures of a teen girl in a bikini. If you’re a middle-aged guy who works with teens and you have those kinds of photos lying around, that’s way worse. Parents are going to ask questions about why you wanted to work around teens.

Don’t Be Creepier

It’s also bad enough if the photo is of just some random teen girl. But if there’s anything worse, it’s probably that the photo is of some specific teen girl: one who attends your school. In that case, specific parents who going to ask an awful lot of very specific questions of you, Curtis R. Cearley, director of technology for the Fayette County Schools.

Don’t Be Publicly Creepy

Nabbing swimsuit photos of your favorite student from her Facebook page for your private collection is super creepy. Putting those photos in a slideshow deck she’s going to sit through at school is yet another order of magnitude of creepy. Maybe you want to consider leaving those photos in your private collection. Better yet, maybe you want to consider leaving those photos on her Facebook page.

Don’t Be Stupid

Ask anyone who works with kids. Publicly shaming them in front of their peers (for something that’s not even wrong, just admittedly ill-advised) is the quickest way to do the opposite of teaching them a lesson. You get resentment, you get betrayal, you get humiliation, but you’re not really going to get that dawning moment of realization.

Don’t Be a Criminal

There’s a word for people who make unauthorized copies of the creative works of other people. Pirate! Infringer! Communist! While Facebook gets a lot of flack for its terms of service, they leave your copyright interest more or less intact. That means that this young woman, when she asked someone to take a photo of her next to a cardboard Snoop Lion, has a copyright interest in the resulting picture. When it gets uploaded to Facebook, she still has that copyright.

When the creepy administrator puts that photo into a slideshow deck he’s making for the whole school (district?), he makes an unauthorized copy. He could probably have used something licensed under Creative Commons and avoided potential intellectual property concerns. The creepy stuff would all still apply, but at least he wouldn’t have pirated anything. After the DMCA, the penalty for copyright infringement is $150,000 per copy; this is going to the world’s most expensive slideshow deck in no time.