A Model’s Perspective on Media Theft

This blog post is not meant to be a rant of sorts, rather a look into what happens every day in the industry.  My hope is to open the eyes of models starting out and give a perspective to the people on the other side of the camera.  I hope to promote a business model where teams look out for and promote each other.  That being said…

I found out yesterday that one of my videos was stolen for a music video. I had not signed a model release and the videographer consented to have “parts of it” used for a lyric video without asking/telling me…

The entire video was used.

A year later a friend sends it to me saying how famous I am, that I’m in a music video. First, I am shocked. I never consented for this to be used. Second, I’m surprised to find the videographer credited in the description. He was a family friend and surely would have told me if somebody wanted to buy our video. Third, I’m extremely hurt because there is no mention of who the actress is…and I am the sole subject of the video…included throughout.

How did everyone think this was okay?

Model: Ashley BeLoat
Photographer: William P Cook

This happens a striking amount for independent models. We are often cheated out of our rates, manipulated into paying or losing money to work for someone, or found in a situation where an agreed upon TFP is redistributed or sold behind our backs.

This is unnerving enough in itself. The startling thing? The average model nowadays starts in their early to mid-teens. What will a child — yes, child — of that age know to do about this sort of thing? How would they know the gravity of what happened or even how to fight it? They likely will not know if or how to sue for pirated/stolen use of their image.

Models, actresses, musicians, photographers alike — we are all victims of stolen work. The one difference is that models are often the youngest of these populations and hence often the most seemingly defenseless. The likelihood of people getting away with the theft of our image is greater than that of a well known photographer’s work. We are less likely to pursue rightful legal ramifications.

In this case, many people were at fault. The maker of the lyric video asked my videographer for consent to use “parts of” our video and used the entire thing. My videographer gave consent on my behalf for a project of which he had no right to give full release (no model release was signed, I owned the video every bit as much as did he). The music artist never asked if consent was provided by the talent, or even asked for my name to credit me…

And once again, I was never notified anything about this project. I found out from a friend a year down the road.  What could I have done better?  I should have created a contract prohibiting further distribution of my work without my consent or compensation.  This is something I still need to create for my protection in the future. 

Nothing about this process was rightful or honest. Everyone was lied to or left in the dark, but I the most. This is the reality of the creative field. This is why we need to fight more than ever for rightful use of our work, and ensure the proper credits of our teams. This is why we need to remain professional, like we would expect anyone else to be towards ourselves.

Model: Ashley BeLoat
Photographer: William P Cook

              Has your work ever been stolen or pirated by another artist/brand?  What did you do about it?  What is your opinion on how business was conducted in this instance?  Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

Ashley BeLoat
Print | Runway | Television
Instagram: @ashleybeloat


  1. Bonita “Bo” Best on April 1, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    My images were used and I was told that the photographer owns the images as soon as the camera captures the image. No model release was signed yet my images were used to promote his clients events as if I was a brand ambassador of some sort but I never agreed to it.

    • Joe on April 2, 2019 at 4:02 pm

      Yes, the photographer owns the picture, but you own your likeness and the commercial use thereof. With some exceptions, you cannot reproduce the photographs without a license from the photographer, and no one can use your likeness commercially without a release.

  2. Ashley on April 2, 2019 at 12:07 am

    This is so similar and this has happened to me too on many occasions. This however was my first instance being used for the entirety of a music video without consent or even credits. This situation has felt very much like oracular since the artist profited from my image so much. The video was his first big hit. 😞

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