Gigi Hadid, IMG Models Slapped with Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Over Instagram Post

Gigi Hadid has been slapped with a copyright infringement lawsuit after posting a photo of herself on her Instagram and Twitter accounts last summer. According to a new suit filed by photographer Peter Cepeda in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia this past week, the famous model posted a photo of herself – which Cepeda took and in which he holds exclusive rights – amounting to an “act of infringement [that] was willful and intentional, in disregard of and with indifference to the rights of Cepeda.”

New York-based Cepeda alleges in his suit that on July 11, 2016, he took a photo of Hadid in New York City. The photo at issue – which depicts of the back of Hadid wearing a jacket that reads “hadidas” with the “as” at the end crossed out and adidas’ trefoil logo – required “great technical skill and careful timing” on Cepeda’s part, as set forth in the complaint.

While Cepeda asserts that he has made “numerous demands” that Hadid “remove the infringing posts, [her team] has refused.” In fact, the photo - for which Cepeda has filed an application for registration with the U.S. Copyright Office - remains on Hadid’s Instagram and Twitter accounts, which boast 6.27 million and 35.7 million followers, respectively. On Instagram, alone, it has been "liked" more than 1.2 million times. 

Cepeda claims that he has, in fact, licensed the photo to The Daily Mail and TMZ, but not to Hadid, thereby, making her use of it illegal (regardless of the fact that she appears in the photo).

Additionally, he states that not only did Hadid use the photo without authorization, she – or her modeling agency, IMG (which is also named in the lawsuit) – posted it without including the copyright watermark and Mr. Cepeda's photo credit. This further runs afoul of federal law, as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") makes it illegal to “violate the integrity of copyright management information,” such as removing or altering the copyright-identifying information on a photo.

 Cepeda's photo

Cepeda's photo

Note: This is something of a budding new trend in copyright law, with copyright infringement plaintiffs are increasingly adding this claim - removal of copyright management information in violation of the DMCA - to their complaints. For instance, we saw it cited in a number of recent cases, including ones against Tiffany & Co. and Tibi, and in the case that the late artist Dash Snow’s estate filed against McDonald’s

“As a result of Hadid’s Post, numerous prominent, commercial, online publications copied and posted the Copyrighted Photograph, crediting Hadid or Instagram,” Cepeda further alleges, and as a result, he is asking the court to demand that the photos be removed from Hadid’s social media accounts, and he is also seeking “actual damages, including any profits realized by [Hadid and/or IMG] attributable to” the photo.

Khloe Kardashian is currently embroiled in a very similar suit, which Xposure Photos filed against her this past April for posting a photo of herself on her Instagram account last fall. According to its suit, Exposure claims that the reality television star ran afoul of federal copyright law by posting a photo of herself “going for a meal at David Grutman’s Miami restaurant, Komodo” without licensing the photo from Xposure, the copyright holder.

IMG was not immediately available for comment, and David Deal, counsel for Cepeda, said that while "on principle, I am not opposed to speaking with members of the media about current cases in which my office is involved ... [but] in my experience, there is not much to gain from my client's perspective from doing so." 

* Peter Cepeda v. Jelena Noura “Gigi” Hadid and IMG Worldwide, Inc., 1:17-cv-00989-LMB-MSN (E.D. Va.)