Who Owns the Rights to Your Likeness?

In 1850, the eminent Harvard naturalist Louis Agassiz commissioned photographs of African slaves on American plantations. The slaves were photographed as specimens, stripped to the waist with frontal and side views. Now, an African-American woman, Tamara Lanier, is suing Harvard for ownership of the photographs, saying they rightfully belong to her family. The case raises some interesting questions. With the advent of the Internet, your photographic likeness can spread all over the world in an instant. Who owns the rights to your likeness?

David Lavine was born in Wilmington, Delaware and is a graduate of the University of Delaware (B.A., History, 1967). After Navy service, he studied photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MFA,1978). He was a freelance photographer for 12 years. He has been an adjunct professor of photography at Anne Arundel Community College since 1989. He has shown his work in diverse galleries in the Baltimore area.

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