Sounds crazy, but there is yet another lawsuit on the docket because a celebrity posted a picture of…HERSELF…on social media! Mandy Moore is the latest celebrity to face the wrath of an angered paparazzi; however, this paparazzi has federal copyright protection on his side. For the past few years, and rapid growth of social media, many celebrities, including Gigi Hadid, Liam Hemsworth, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber and even J-Lo, have faced legal consequences for posting photos of themselves – taken by someone else. Talk about needing a copyright litigation attorney.
Paparazzi photographer Josiah Kamau filed a lawsuit against the singer/actress, Moore, alleging copyright infringement. Moore shared a photo of a friend opening a car door for her on an Instagram story with the caption “Chivalry is not dead….” A nice compliment to her pal, right? The catch is, Moore did not take the photo, photog Kamau did, and not only did he take the photo – he federally registered it with the Copyright Office. As we’ve discussed in some of our previous posts – Don’t Do The Crime if You Can’t Pay the Ten Billion Dimes, Protecting the Playas, YouTube Has Your Back – copyright protection is available to all authors of an original work that is fixed in a tangible medium. That protection occurs at the moment of creation. Registering one’s work with the Copyright Office provides additional protections, including but not limited to, statutory damages, aka money, and access to enforce the copyright in federal court.
Kamau is now seeking up to $150,000 in damages from Moore and is demanding a jury trial in his suit filed in the Northern District of Florida.
We know Grande and Bieber quickly settled their copyright infringement suits once they were served. Hadid, on the other hand, was able to have the case against her dismissed on the grounds that the photographer had not fully registered his photograph prior to the filing of the lawsuit. As of the date of posting this blog, Mandy Moore had not been served with a copy of the lawsuit, so we don’t know what her legal response will be quite yet.
Well, it’s really very simple – it’s not her property. According to the facts alleged by Kamau, Moore actually used a screen grab tool to copy the photo off of its original posting to use it. Photographers, including paparazzi, make their living off of these photos that they take. So, the photos are original works and they are fixed tangible medium, sufficient for common law copyright protection. With Kamau taking the additional steps and federally registering this photo, among dozens others, he has made himself, as the copyright holder, eligible for statutory damages and if his case is successful, possible attorney fees. That is, of course, if Kamau’s photographs were fully registered prior to filing suit since having merely applied for registration no longer suffices.
If Kamau and other photographers are able to enforce the copyright protection on their celebrity photos, then celebrities will have to be more cautious of taking photos of themselves from the internet and re-posting them on their own social media. A copyright litigation attorney can help with this. Yes indeed, you may need to pay to license a photo of yourself for use on your social media unless the photograph was taken for you. Not all photographers will require a fee, some might just ask for credit. However, Photographers have the right to be compensated for their work, and to decide how and when it is used. This is a concept that is hard for some to swallow in the context of paparazzi, where the photos are taken of people without permission, and yet permission from the paparazzi is needed to re-post, but rights of publicity and privacy rights are a blog for another day.
Be on the lookout for more cases like this, and maybe even some legislative changes to address this particular issue…
For more information on protecting your original works, avoiding copyright infringement or any other intellectual property needs, contact us to schedule your free consultation with a copyright litigation attorney.