The Hudson Yards Photo Controversy: What Influencers Need to Know

Hudson Yards, New York City’s $20B private development, was recently unveiled, featuring 28 acres of real estate, restaurants, and shopping. In the center of it all stands the Vessel, Thomas Heatherwick’s 150 foot climbable monument that looks like a mix between an aerial park and a public art installation. The Vessel is designed for Instagram, begging people to create content that will generate a buzz for Hudson Yards. Naturally, influencers have been happy to oblige with great pictures. But what happens to those photos after they’re taken?

@sassofstyle

@sassofstyle

Immediately after opening, Hudson yards came under fire for it’s expansive photo rights policy, granting themselves copyright license to any and all photos taken at the structure, without compensation. This means that while photographers and influencers do retain ownership of the photos and can post them on their own channels, Hudson Yards can also post them in perpetuity and use them on their website without asking permission or paying for them. After an onslaught of online criticism, Hudson Yard argued that their terms of service were only establishing clearly what was already common practice.

In the face of the backlash, Hudson Yards slightly altered the language in their terms and conditions, but they still claim expansive photo rights. The incident serves as a cautionary tale for influencers - what does it mean for influencers looking to capture that perfect shot at their favorite local landmark?

Here are the most important lessons to learn from the Hudson Yards controversy:

Always read the fine print

Whether you’re signing on to a collaboration with a brand or lining up for a fun experiential space, make sure you’re fully reading the terms and conditions, including the ones about photo rights. In the case of Hudson Yards, something as simple as walking past a sign at the entrance was enough to legally transfer content rights to someone else. Make sure this isn’t happening without your knowledge.

Keep an eye on your own content

In a response to Gothamist addressing the controversy, Hudson Yards argued that their photo policy was merely articulating clearly what many other attractions (and individuals) already do. While this defense is disconcerting, it’s not exactly untrue. Many people share content online without even thinking about who it belongs to or whether photo credits ought to be granted. Keep an eye open for your content - you can even do periodic image searches to see where they might be posted - and reach out if someone is using it without your permission.

Give credit where credit is due

There is a commonly used and simple solution to the Hudson Yards dilemma. If they want to use visitors’ content on their own social media, they should ask permission and share with credit. It would take only a little extra work on their part, and it’s the right thing to do. Influencers can support each other by always sharing each other’s work with credit and insisting that others do the same.  

When it comes to content creation, make informed choices

Despite the controversy, everyday guests and influencers alike continued to post selfies and photos of the Vessel because it’s an exciting and cool new landmark. As an influencer, it’s up to you to decide whether the photo policy is something you can live with. The important thing is that you’re making informed decisions and acting with all available information.

What’s your opinion of the Vessel’s photo policy?  Start the discussion in the comments!


Emily Baroz8 Comments