With the rise in social media usage over the past two decades or so and the decline in conventional advertising formats has come a surge in ad efforts on social media platforms. This push to meet consumers where they are has meant that the jobs of influential figures – from fashion industry influencers to Hollywood celebrities – have expanded to include building and maintaining sizable social media followings in order to leverage those followings for big-money advertising partnerships. IMG Models’ Luiz Mattos, the agent behind the likes of supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid, and actress Priyanka Chopra, put it well when he said, “These days, models’ jobs don’t end when they leave the studio or the runway,” and absolutely extends to “posting on social [media].”
One of the glaring side effects of such increased attention to social media – paired with a handful of notably aggressive lawyers – is the growing number of copyright infringement lawsuits that are being filed against individuals and brands over their unauthorized use of others’ images either of themselves, in the case celebrities and models, or of others in their wares when it comes to brands. Regardless of who appears in a photo (as copyright law does not award rights based on the subject of a photo, although at least some, such as Gigi Hadid, have taken to arguing that joint copyright rights should exist in some cases), the individual(s) behind the creation of a photo, almost exclusively paparazzi photographers (or their employers) in these instances, are the copyright holders, and as a result, any use of images by individuals other than the copyright holder gives rise to copyright infringement claims.
With the foregoing in mind, here is a non-exhaustive (running) look at some of the recently-filed paparazzi v. celebrity and paparazzi v. brand cases …
NOVEMBER 2023 – Xposure Photo Agency Inc. v. Christopher Brown, 2:23-cv-10103 (C.D. Cal.)
AUGUST 2023 – Chosen Figure LLC v. Bella Hadid, 1:23-cv-06757 (SDNY)
Bella Hadid has been hit with another copyright lawsuit, this time over an image of herself “outside an apartment door” that she posted to her Instagram account on August 12, 2020. (The image has since been deleted from Hadid’s account.) Plaintiff Chosen Figure claims that it is “a professional photography [company] by trade” and the “legal and rightful owner of the photographs [that it] licenses to online and print publications.” Chosen Figure’s photographs are “original, creative works in which [it] owns protectable copyright interests,” the company claims in the complaint, alleging that Hadid infringed such interests when she “volitionally selected, copied, stored and displayed [its] copyright protected photograph” on her Instagram account “without permission or authorization” from Chosen Figure.
Setting out a single claim of copyright infringement in its August 2 complaint, Chosen Figure argues that Hadid “has received a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringement,” “a large number of people have viewed the unlawful copies of the photograph on [her] social media account,” “at all times, [Hadid] had the ability to stop the reproduction and display of [the] copyrighted material,” and her “use of the photograph, if widespread, would harm [Chosen Figure’s] potential market for the photograph.”
JUNE 2023 – James Fortune v. Micky Dolenz, 2:23-cv-05156 (C.D. Cal.)
May 2023 – John Carta v. Garcelle Beauvais, 2:23-cv-04093 (C.D. Cal.)
APRIL 2023 – BackGrid USA, Inc. v. Tales of Vintage, Inc. et al, 2:23-cv-03124 (C.D. Cal.)
A luxury knit clothing company doing business as JoosTricot is on the receiving end of a new copyright suit for posting “at least two” paparazzi-lensed photos of Abigail Spencer to its Facebook and Instagram pages along with the caption “Ugh we love a good paparazzi picture … ,” thereby, “acknowledging that the photos were professionally shot and not authored by JoosTricot.”
APRIL 2023 – BackGrid USA, Inc. v. Ian Charms, LLC et al, 2:23-cv-03089 (C.D. Cal.)
Ian Charms has also been hit with a new copyright infringement suit, with BackGrid arguing in its complaint that the celeb-approved jewelry company “reproduced, distributed, displayed, and created unauthorized derivative works of celebrity photographs on its Instagram account without consent or license.” Of note, according to BackGrid, is that Ian Charms “even concealed the fact that it did not own the rights, [as] when Instagram user nina877711 asked in the comments of the photos ‘Can you post pictures when you dont (sic.) have the rights?,’ Ian Charms responded ‘yes I took this with my iphone X.’ That statement was not true. Ian Charms is not the author of the photographs.”
BackGrid alleges that it has identified “at least nine instances of infringement by way of the unlawful reproduction and display of [its] photographs” by Ian Charms.
DECEMBER 2022 – Robert O’Neil v. Isabella Khairiah “Bella” Hadid, 1:22-cv-10711 (SDNY)
Bella Hadid has landed on the end of yet another suit. In the complaint that he filed on Dec. 20, Robert O’Neil (who has sued Emily Ratajkowski, Blake Lively, Gigi Hadid, etc. in the past) claims that he “authored a photograph of Bella Hadid in a red bandana and navy-blue bikini” in December 2020, which the model posted to her Instagram “without permission or authorization” two days later.
Speaking to their respective activities (and mirroring claims that he made in his suit against Ratajkowski, presumably in an attempt to get ahead of any arguments that the paparazzi photo is not copyrightable subject matter due to a lack of creative decision making on his part), O’Neil says that in creating the photograph, he “personally selected the subject matter, timing, lighting, angle, perspective, depth, lens and camera equipment used to capture the image.” Meanwhile, O’Neil argues that Hadid, who boasts 57 million followers on Instagram, “takes an active and pervasive role in the content posted on her account, including, but not limited to copying, posting, selecting, commenting on and/or displaying images including but not limited to [his] photograph.”
DECEMBER 2022 – Chouet Press SAS v. Isabella Khiar Hadid, 2:22-cv-08967 (C.D.Cal.)
Bella Hadid has been named in yet another paparazzi-initiated lawsuit, with Chouet’Press SAS dba BestImage (“BestImage”) accusing Hadid of copying a photo of herself that it maintains a copyright registration for and “display[ing] it on Instagram, via the @bellahadid account, on June 27, 2021.” In a nod to “Hadid’s popularity and celebrity status,” BestImage claims that it (and the photographer it represents) “stood to gain licensing revenue from licensing the Photograph.” That never happened, though, as “when content is distributed widely for free by infringers, legitimate licensors like BestImage customers will decline to license that content, or the amount they are willing to pay will be reduced.”
“Legitimate publications to which BestImage looks to pay licensing fees are unwilling to pay for work that is already widely disseminated on the internet for free.” the plaintiff further asserts, claiming that “this is especially true when, as here, celebrities distribute images of themselves to their millions of followers without authorization.”
NOVEMBER 2022 – Claudia Fiorella Occhipinti v. Paris Hilton, 2:22-cv-08688 (C.D.Cal.)
Paris Hilton and two of the entities she controls Paris Hilton Entertainment, Inc. and 11:11: Media, LLC are being sued for copyright infringement for allegedly co-opting photos that were licensed for use for a Paris Hilton fragrance project and using them across many additional projects without photographer Claudia Occhipinti’s authorization. “In 2019, Ms. Occhipinti was engaged to shoot photographs of Paris Hilton for the sole purpose of promotion of Ms. Hilton’s ‘Electrify’ fragrance in certain types of media, limited to packaging, in store advertising, conventions or trade shows, and internet web advertising related to the fragrance. No other uses were permitted or requested, nor was sub-licensing permitted,” Occhipinti asserts.
Specifically, Occhipinti asserts that the defendants used the photos to “promote various different brands owned by Ms. Hilton, outside the scope of the agreed upon license, as well as to promote ‘Electrify’ in channels outside the scope of the permitted Uses.” She points to 15 Instagram posts from Hilton and/or Hilton’s brands, which use the photos to promote Paris Hilton merch, LuMee iPhone cases, Hilton’s “This is Paris” series, and various DJ sets, as well as a bus ad for the Electrify fragrance.
Setting out claims of copyright infringement, false designation of origin, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment, and seeking injunctive relief and damages, Occhipinti claims that “Ms. Hilton’s actions have deprived [her] of revenue and have caused [her] significant monetary harm.”
OCTOBER 2021 – Eva’s Photography, Inc. v. Inamorata Swim LLC, 2:21-cv-08136 (C.D.Cal.)
In the latest in a string of lawsuits being filed over the allegedly unauthorized posting of photos of Emily Ratajkowski by Emily Ratajkowski, Eva’s Photography has filed suit against Ratajkowski’s brand Inamorata Swim on the heels of the model-slash-actress posting a since-deleted photo of herself on her personal Instagram account in May. (The photo was subsequently shared by JW PEI, the brand that made the purse that Ratajkowski is toting in the photo; JW PEI is not named as a defendant in the complaint.) According to Eva’s Photography’s complaint, Ratajkowski “engaged in this misconduct knowingly and in violation of the United States copyright laws.”
OCTOBER 2021 – Backgrid USA v. Scott Disick, 2:21-cv-07887 (C.D.Cal.)
Scott Disick of Keeping Up with the Kardashians fame is being sued for posting not one paparazzi photo to his Instagram account without licensing the photo or otherwise receiving authorization to use it, but for posting eight unauthorized photos to his heavily followed Instagram account @letthelordbewithyou dating back to 2016. According to Backgrid’s newly-filed complaint, in at least one of the Instagram posts featuring the copyright-protected imagery, Disick “included text that promoted [his] fashion apparel brand, Talentless,” namely by way of a caption that read, “Looking good in the @talentless Vote sweatshirt.”
Addressing the harm caused by Disick’s alleged infringements, Backgrid asserts that his use of the photos “devalued the photographs and harmed BackGrid because they were re-posted and copied by others, including by BackGrid customers who would otherwise license the Photographs from BackGrid. For example, BackGrid’s customer The Daily Mail reposted Mr. Disick’s Instagram post that included [a photo of Disick in front of Nobu in 2018].” Additionally, Backgrid claims that Disick’s “unauthorized uses of the photographs are commercial in nature,” as he “uses his Instagram account for the purposes of promotion—specifically, to promote his business interests, products, and ventures— specifically Talentless; to promote and sell the products and services of others; to maintain and increase his visibility and desirability as endorser and television personality; and to promote his own persona given his celebrity status and popularity.”
SEPTEMBER 2021 – Backgrid USA v. Rhude Designs LLC, 2:21-cv-07567 (C.D.Cal.)
In a newly-filed copyright lawsuit, Backgrid claims that Los Angeles-based brand Rhude and its founder Rhuigi Villaseñor are both on the hook for copyright infringement for engaging in “at least 4 instances of infringement by way of [their] unlawful reproduction and display of the celebrity photographs,” including one of actor James Franco wearing their designs. Specifically, Backgrid claims that the defendants “reproduced, distributed, displayed, and created unauthorized derivative works of the timely registered celebrity photographs on its Instagram account without consent or license” in an attempt to boost traffic to the brand’s social media account and its e-commerce site.
In furtherance of efforts “to promote the brand, both the Rhude Brand and Villaseñor engage customers and prospective customers through their Instagram accounts,” the photo agency asserts, alleging that “Rhude has driven significant traffic to its Instagram and increased the goodwill to its brand through the unauthorized use of the celebrity photographs, and, thereby, has increased its revenues through the presence of the sought-after and searched-for celebrity photographs that frame this dispute.”
Such traffic translated into a “substantial ill-gotten commercial advantage and increased brand awareness as a direct consequence of the infringements,” per BackGrid, which claims that “Villaseñor personally participated in the willful infringement at issue in this case on behalf of the Rhude Brand by and through the Rhude Brand Instagram account, making the infringement on each account the responsibility of both the Rhude Brand and Villaseñor.”
SEPTEMBER 2021 – Robert O’Neil v. Blakel, Inc., 2:21-cv-07386 (C.D.Cal.)
In a short, 7-page complaint photographer Robert O’Neil accuses Blake Lively’s corporate entity of copyright infringement in connection with her since-deleted Instagram post that featured a photo of herself from August 2018. According to O’Neil, Lively “did not license the photograph from [him],” nor did she have his “permission or consent to publish the photograph.” Interestingly (although, probably unsurprisingly), Instagram account @commentsbycelebs posted part of the same image back in August 2018 along with a screenshot of a comment that Lively made in response to another Instagram user who urged her to either “hire a stylist or fire the one you’re currently with,” but was not targeted in the same copyright infringement suit or a separate suit.
JULY 2021 – Javier Mateo v. Emily Ratajkowski, 2:21-cv-05684 (C.D.Cal.)
Javier Mateo filed suit against Emily Ratajkowski, asserting that he is the rightful owner of three photos that she “actively copied, stored, and/or displayed” on her Instagram account without his permission or authorization. Mateo claims that the model-slash-actress “engaged in this misconduct knowingly and in violation of the U.S. copyright laws.”
Additionally, Mateo asserts in his complaint that Ratajkowski “has the legal right and ability to control and limit the infringing activities on her [Instagram] account,” “monitors the content on her account,” and “at all times had the ability to stop the reproduction and display of [his] copyrighted material.” Yet, the photographer plaintiff argues that she “willfully and volitionally posted” the images to her account, and “received a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringements,” while also allegedly “harming … [the] potential market for the photographs.”
JULY 2021 – Integral Images v. Dua Lipa, 2:21-cv-05470 (C.D.Cal.)
In a largely run of the mill copyright infringement complaint, Integral Images asserts that Lipa posted the now-deleted photo to her Instagram account, along with the caption, “I’ll be living under big fluffy hats until further notice,” without licensing the photo or otherwise receiving the photo licensing agency’s authorization, thereby, running afoul of federal copyright law. Hardly an innocent mistake, Integral Images claims that Lipa knowingly displayed the image without its authorization, and stood to benefit by posting it to her heavily-followed Instagram, as the account is “monetized in that it contains content designed to accumulate followers who are directed to, via link and/or advertisement, consume and purchase [her] content.”
JULY 2021 – Timur Mishiev v. Katharine McPhee Foster, 2:21-cv-05682 (C.D.Cal.)
JULY 2021 – John Carta v. Kaley Christine Cuoco, 2:21-cv-05681 (C.D.Cal.)
JUNE 2021 – Backgrid USA, Inc. v. Lisa Rinna, 2:21-cv-04779 (C.D. Cal.)
FEBRUARY 2021 – Backgrid USA, Inc. v. Outdoor Voices, Inc., 2:21-cv-01325 (C.D.Cal.)
Outdoor Voices is on the hook for copyright infringement, according to a newly-filed suit. “BackGrid is the owner and exclusive copyright holder of a photographic image, originally created by photographer Silvio Antonio as part of a series of photographic images, depicting international model Alessandra Ambrosio walking and wearing a light orange colored sweat suit that, on information and belief, was designed by defendant Outdoor Voices,” the photo agency asserts in its complaint. Despite “never licens[ing] the photograph to Outdoor Voices,” Backgrid claims that the company “copied” the image and “distributed it on Instagram on February 5, 2020, via its account @outdoorvoices.” BackGrid says that it “discovered Outdoor Voices’ infringement of the photo on or about February 6, 2020.”
At the same time, Backgrid asserts that Outdoor Voices similarly infringed two separate photos “depicting musician Harry Styles walking near a white SUV” – while wearing Outdoor Voices apparel – when it “copied … and distributed them on Instagram story on August 18, 2018, via its account @outdoorvoices,” which BackGrid discovered “on or about August 18, 2018.”
Such allegedly unauthorized use of the image by Outdoor Voices – which “specifically posted the Photographs on Instagram to advertise the Outdoor Voices apparel worn by Alessandra Ambrosio and Harry Styles” – “harms BackGrid’s business model by driving down the prices for legitimately licensed celebrity images and driving away BackGrid’s actual and potential customers,” the photo agency argues, noting that “BackGrid’s customers—among them, media companies who pay large license fees for celebrity visual content—are less likely to purchase licenses, or pay as much for a license, when the same visual content will be widely distributed simultaneously on publicly available social media.”
JANUARY 2021 – Xposure Photo Agency Inc., v. Dundas World Ltd., 2:21-cv-00612 (C.D.Cal.)
Following a bit of a slowdown in filings, likely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and due, in part, to a marked drop in filings by notorious copyright case-filer Richard Liebowitz, who Law360 notes has “routinely filed dozens of copyright cases each month [in recent years], but filed just four since the start of December,” designer Peter Dundas’ brand is on the receiving end of a copyright infringement suit. According to a complaint filed on January 22, Xposure claims that Dundas World posted a photo of “depicting model and Instagram star Maya Henry wearing clothing designed by [Dundas] and accompanied by singer-songwriter Liam Payne” on its Instagram story “specifically to advertise [its] ‘D6’ line of apparel.”
Xposure asserts that Dundas’ “unauthorized use is commercial in nature, [as] Dundas uses its Instagram feed for the purposes of promotion—specifically, to promote its own business interests, products, and ventures. Indeed, Dundas specifically posted the photograph to its story to advertise the Dundas-designed clothing worn by Maya Henry in the photograph.” Particularly, Xpsoure argues that “Dundas writes in the post ‘@maya_henry in #D6’ with D6 being one of the lines of apparel offered by Dundas. In short, [its] Instagram posts and stories promote its products, the infringing post at issue here being no exception.”
NOVEMBER 2020 – Splash News and Picture Agency, LLC v. Ashley Benson, 2:20-cv-10864 (C.D.Cal.).
MAY 2020 – BackGrid USA, Inc. v. Justin Bieber, 2:20-cv-04685 (C.D.Cal.).
APRIL 2020 – Angela Ma v. Kendall Jenner, Inc. and Kendall Jenner, 2:20-cv-03011 (C.D.Cal.).
By posting a video to her Instagram that New York-based Angela Ma took of her outside if the Balenciaga store in Soho, Kendall Jenner engaged in copyright infringement, and is the “direct and proximate cause of the infringement,” and thus, should be forced to pay either the sum of Ma’s “actual damages and [Jenner’s] profits, gains or advantages of any kind attributable to [her] infringement of [Ma’s] video” or … alternatively, statutory damages up to $150,000.
FEBRUARY 2020 – Gonzalez v. I.A.M.GIA (US) LLC, 1:20-cv-01483 (SDNY).
Buzzy Instagram-favored brand I.A.M.GIA posted photographs of Brazilian Victoria Secret model Bruna Lirio wearing its clothing and now is being sued for it. Photographer Alberto Gonzalez claims that the Southern California-based brand engaged in the “unauthorized reproduction and public display of two copyrighted photographs.” The problem, according to Gonzalez? “I Am Gia did not license the photographs from [him], nor did I Am Gia have [his] permission or consent to publish the photographs.”
FEBRUARY 2020 – Ramales v. Alexander Wang Incorporated, 1:20-cv-00926 (SDNY)
Felipe Ramales claims that Alexander Wang is on the hook for copyright infringement “arising out of [its] unauthorized reproduction and public display of a copyrighted photograph of singer Dua Lipa, owned and registered by Ramales, a professional photographer.”
FEBRUARY 2020 – Mishiev v. Hadid AKA Bella Hadid, 1:20-cv-00959 (SDNY)
In another suit filed against Bella Hadid, the model is being accused of copyright infringement in connection with a photo that she posted to Instagram in September 2019, complete with the caption: “@zendaya made this hat so I shall wear this hat until I can no longer wear this hat anymore @tommyhilfiger.” Turns out, photographer Timur Missive says that he took and maintains a copyright registration for the original photo, which Hadid cropped and posted to her account.
DECEMBER 2019 – Xposure Photo Agency Inc. v. Isabella Khiar Hadid p/k/a Bella Hadid, 2:19-cv-10587 (C.D.Cal)
According to a complaint filed in a California federal court, “model, businesswoman, and entrepreneur” Bella Hadid – “or someone acting on her behalf” – took five images owned by Xposure Photo Agency Inc. and posted them to her highly-followed Instagram account on various dates between September 6, 2016 and June 17, 2018, thereby, engaging in “systemic piracy” that causes “harm to the existing and future market for the original photographs.”
DECEMBER 2019 – Vila v. Fenty Corp., 1:19-cv-11790 (SDNY)
In the second paparazzi lawsuit filed against it in 2019, Rihanna and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s Fenty is being sued for post a photo of model Irina Shayk to its Instagram stories. According to the complaint that professional photographer Carlos Vila filed, he took a photo of model Irina Shayk on a Manhattan street this summer, clad in denim pieces from Fenty – the high-end fashion venture that Rihanna launched this year with luxury powerhouse LVMH – only to have the brand use the image (without his authorization) to promote its offerings on Instagram.
NOVEMBER 2019 – Eva’s Photography, Inc. v. HVN, LLC, 1:19-cv-11010 (SDNY)
Eva’s Photography, Inc. is taking on the eponymous brand for model-slash-DJ Harley Viera-Newton in a new suit, accusing the fashion company of infringing its copyright in a photo of Jennifer Lawrence. According to Eva’s Photograph’s complaint, while it is a “professional photography company the business of licensing photographs to online and print media for a fee,” HVN, LLC paid no such fee before it posted a photo of the actress in one of its dresses on its Instagram account.
NOVEMBER 2019 – Krieger v. Staud, Inc., 1:19-cv-10861 (SDNY)
Photographer David Krieger is suing buzzy young brand Staud over it allegedly “unauthorized reproduction and public display of a copyrighted photograph of actress Camila Mendes, [that the photog] owns and registered” with the U.S. Copyright Office. Krieger claims that in June, he photographed the Riverdale actress, who was wearing a Staud cropped top at the time, only to have the brand “post the photograph on its Instagram Story as tool to promote its brand.”
“Staud did not license the photograph from [him] for its Instagram Story,” Krieger claims, “nor did Staud have [his] permission or consent to publish the photograph on its Instagram Story,” thereby giving rise to his claim of copyright infringement.
OCTOBER 2019 – Carlos Vila v. Staud, Inc., 1:19-cv-09119 (SDNY)
In another suit filed against Staud, photographer Carlos Vila is taking issue with the brand’s “unauthorized reproduction and public display of a copyrighted photograph of British model and fashion designer Alexa Chung with her model boyfriend Matt Hitt,” which is “owned and registered by Vila.” Despite not being “licensed or otherwise authorized to reproduce, publically display, distribute and/or use the photograph,” Vila claims that Staud “reproduced and publicly displayed the photograph on [its] Instagram Story,” thereby running afoul of the law.
OCTOBER 2019 – Splash News v. Moschino S.P.A., Jeremy Scott, and Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar p/k/a Cardi B, 2:19-cv-09220 (C.D.Cal)
Jeremy Scott and Moschino, along with rapper Cardi B, are the latest names on a long list of fashion brands and celebrities to be sued for allegedly running afoul of federal copyright law by posting others’ images to their social media accounts without paying to license the photos or receiving the copyright holder’s authorization to post them. In a lawsuit filed in a California federal court, Splash News claims that Moschino, Scott, and Cardi B interfered with its photo-licensing business by posting photos taken this spring of Cardi B wearing a flower-covered Moschino coat.
Los Angeles-based Splash New asserts in its newly-filed complaint that despite reaching out to Moschino to notify the fashion brand about the photos and “offering [the brand] a license for internal or social media use,” Moschino and its creative director “copied” the images from The Daily Mail – which was granted a license to published the photos by Splash News – “almost instantaneously” and posted them on their respective social media accounts, while Cardi B posted one of the photos to her Instagram a month later.
OCTOBER 2019 – O’Neil v. Ratajkowski et al, 1:19-cv-09769 (SDNY)
Emily Ratajkowski’s “forever mood” is getting her sued. The model-splash-actress has been hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit after posting a photo of herself on her Instagram account. According to a complaint filed in a New York federal court on Wednesday, photographer Robert O’Neil claims that Ratajkowski and her corporate entity Emrata Holdings LLC ran afoul of federal copyright law when the 28-year old posted one of his photos to her Instagram story.
OCTOBER 2019 – Stewart v. Are You Am I, 1:19-cv-09738 (SDNY)
Early fashion blogger Rumi Neely’s company Are You Am I is being sued. According to photographer Michael Stewart’s complaint, the Los Angeles-based brand ran afoul of federal copyright law by allegedly posting a photo of “it” model Kaia Gerber on its Instagram account without authorization from the copyright-holding photographer.
OCTOBER 2019 – Jawad Elatab v. Hesperios, Inc., 1:19-cv-9678 (SDNY)
Just over a month after photographer Robert Barbara filed suit against Mode PR for posting a photo of Bella Hadid wearing a top and skirt made/sold by its client Hesperios, a different photographer is suing the womenswear brand for posting a separate but similar photo of Hadid. In the complaint that Jawad Elatab filed against Hesperios, he claims that the brand violated his copyright rights by posting a photo of Bella Hadid.
OCTOBER 2019 – Barbera v. Justin Bieber Brands, LLC et al, 1:19-cv-09532 (SDNY)
We can add Justin Bieber to the list of celebs to be sued over paparazzi photos. The singer has been named in a copyright infringement suit after posting a photo of himself and cool-pastor Rich Wilkerson to his Instagram this spring without receiving authorization to do so from photographer Robert Barbera or paying a licensing fee. Barbera says that he “is the author of the photograph and has at all times been the sole owner of all right, title and interest in and to the photograph, including the copyright thereto,” making Bieber’s Instagram post a violation of his exclusive rights as the copyright holder.
OCTOBER 2019 – Nam v. Marc Jacobs International, L.L.C., 1:19-cv-09463 (SDNY)
And Marc Jacobs has been hit with yet another paparazzi lawsuit. In a complaint filed in a New York federal court, photographer Patrick Nam is suing the New York-based brand over its “unauthorized reproduction and public display of two copyrighted photographs of influencer Margaret Zhang. Nam claims that Marc Jacobs ran two “photographs of Zhang on [Instagram] as marketing to promote their brand,” despite not “licensing the photographs from [him],” or receiving “permission or consent to publish the photographs.”
OCTOBER 2019 – Nam v. Moschino USA, 1:19-cv-09462 (SDNY)
The same photographer that filed suit against Marc Jacobs is also taking on Moachino. According to Patrick Nam’s second lawsuit, “This action arises out of [Moschino’s] unauthorized reproduction and public display of a copyrighted photograph of model Golden Barbie at New York’s fashion week, [which is] owned and registered by Nam, a New York based professional photographer.” (Note: Golden Barbie is model Jasmine Sanders’ Instagram account handle).
Nam claims that “Moschino is not, and has never been, licensed or otherwise authorized to reproduce, publically display, distribute and/or use the photograph,” and thus, has run afoul of copyright law by posting.
OCTOBER 2019 – Splash News and Picture Agency, LLC v. Lopez, 2:19-cv-08598 (C.D. Cal.)
After New York-based brand Monse landed on the receiving end of a copyright infringement lawsuit for posting a photo of Jennifer Lopez in one of its dresses on Instagram in July and on the heels of Versace being sued before that for posting a photo on its account of Lopez wearing an all-over Versace print look to MTV’s Video Music Awards last year, the singer-slash-actress is now facing an infringement suit of her own after she posted a photo of herself and Alex Rodriguez on her heavily-followed Instagram account.
According to the complaint that Splash News filed in a California federal court last week, the Los Angeles-headquartered paparazzi photo agency is “the owner and exclusive copyright holder of a photographic image” captured by photographer Elder Ordonez in November 2017, which depicts “Lopez holding hands with her boyfriend Alex Rodriguez while out for breakfast in New York City.”
OCTOBER 2019 – Eva’s Photography, Inc. v. Fenty Corp., 1:19-cv-09120 (SDNY)
Rihanna’s Fenty Corp. is being sued over a photo of Gigi Hadid. Eva’s Photography, Inc. asserts in a new lawsuit that Rihanna’s fashion venture, which she launched this year with luxury powerhouse LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, shared a photo of Gigi Hadid wearing a corseted dark denim top from the brand’s debut drop on its Instagram story. The problem, according to the New York-based professional photography company? Fenty Corp. didn’t have permission to do so.
Eva’s asserts in its complaint, which was filed in a New York federal court on October 1, it “has at all times been the sole owner of all right, title and interest in and to the photograph” of Hadid pictured on a New York City street last month, including the copyright in the photo.
This case settled in January 2020.
SEPTEMBER 2019 – Edward Opinaldo v. Spring London LTD., 1:19-cv-08788 (SDNY)
Spring London has landed on the wrong end of a copyright infringement suit. According to the complaint filed in New York federal court by counsel for Edward Opinaldo, the “leading fashion and luxury brand development, communications, digital, VIP and PR agency” has run afoul of the law by posting a photo that he took of actress Olivia Munn in June on its Instagram account – to promote its client Chalayan – without his permission.
Opinaldo says that he licensed the image of Munn to the Daily Mail, only to have Spring London “copy [it] from the Daily Mail and cropped off [his] watermark” before posting in on their Instagram account. “Spring London did not license the photograph from [Opinaldo] for its Instagram page, nor did Spring London have [his] permission or consent to publish the photograph on its Instagram page,” the complaint asserts.
SEPTEMBER 2019 – Robert Barbera v. Mode Public Relations, 1:19-cv-08636 (SDNY)
A photo of Bella Hadid is at the center of another copyright infringement lawsuit. According to the complaint that repeat plaintiff Robert Barbara filed on September 17, Mode Public Relations is on the hook for posting an image that he took of the supermodel to its Instagram in July without receiving his authorization or paying the licensing fee his photos command in order to legally do so. The paparazzi photographer asserts that despite opyright “reproducing and publicly displaying the photograph [of Hadid] on its Instagram Page” this summer in promotion of New York-based womenswear brand Hesperios, “Mode PR is not, and has never been, licensed or otherwise authorized to reproduce, publically display, distribute and/or use the photo.”
SEPTEMBER 2019 – Felipe Ramales v. Victoria Beckham Inc., VB Beauty (US) LLC, and Victoria Beckham, 1:19-cv-08650 (SDNY)
Former Spice Girl-turned-fashion figure Victoria Beckham is on the receiving end of a new copyright infringement lawsuit after posting a photo of herself to her Instagram story this summer. According to the complaint that counsel for Felipe Ramales filed in a New York federal court on Tuesday, Beckham did not seek the photographer’s “permission or consent” before posting the image of herself on her Instagram account nor did she – or her corporate entities, Victoria Beckham INC. and VB Beauty LLC – pay to license it.
SEPTEMBER 2019 – Robert O’Neil v. Jelena Noura Hadid aka Gigi Hadid, 1:19-cv-8522 (SDNY)
Just two months after prevailing in a copyright infringement lawsuit in connection with a photo she posted of herself on her Instagram account, Gigi Hadid has been named in a new lawsuit – this time for the “unauthorized reproduction and public display of a copyrighted photograph of English singer and songwriter Zayn Malik.” According to the copyright suit filed by professional photographer Robert O’Neil in a New York federal court on Friday, Hadid added a photo of former boyfriend Malik to her Instagram story in June 2018. The problem? She did not have O’Neil’s permission to do so.
SEPTEMBER 2019 – Elatab v. Canary Yellow LLC, 1:19-cv-08114 (SDNY)
Virgil Abloh is being sued for copyright infringement for posting a photo of Bella Hadid. According to the complaint that Jawad Elatab filed in a New York federal court on Friday, the buzzy designer posted a photo of Hadid – toting a customized suitcase from a collaboration between his brand Off-White and Rimowa – to his Instagram account without paying to license the photo from the copyright-holding photographer or obtaining his “permission or consent to publish the photograph on [his] Instagram Story,” thereby giving rise to a copyright infringement dispute.
Elatab asserts in his complaint that Virgil Abloh – or better yet, Abloh’s corporate entity Canary Yellow LLC, which interestingly bears the name of a company that FUBU president Daymond John thought up back in 2003 – engaged in the “reproduction and public display of a copyrighted photograph of model Bella Hadid,” one that he took of the supermodel in New York in March. While Vogue and the Daily Mail appear to have licensed the image from Elatab (i.e., entered into a contract in which the photographer grants specific rights to another party to use his/her image(s) in a specific capacity in exchange for compensation) – by way of photo agency Backgrid, the same cannot be said for Abloh, according to the complaint.
Images of Emily Ratajkowski and Annabelle Wallis are at the center of two new paparazzi lawsuits. Edward Opinaldo has filed copyright infringement suits in a New York federal court in Monday, asserting that womenswear brand Adeam and creative management powerhouse The Wall Group posted images that he took of the buzzy model and English actress on their respective Instagram accounts without licensing the images or receiving his permission to do so.
AUGUST 2019 – Barbera v. Alexander Wang, Inc.,1:19-cv-07540 (SDNY)
Photographer Robert Barbera is taking on Alexander Wang in a copyright lawsuit after the designer allegedly posted a photo of Dua Lipa wearing to his Instagram without licensing it or obtaining the photographer’s authorization. According to the complaint, which was filed in a New York federal court, Barbera claims that he “photographed English singer and songwriter Dua Lipa” when she was leaving the Bowery Hotel in New York in early April 2019. While Barbera licensed the photo to other companies to use, “Alexander Wang ran the photograph on [its Instagram and Facebook accounts]” to promote its clothing” without paying to license the photo. In particular, Wang made use of the image of the singer wearing its $795 Mini Shirt Dress and $795 Halo Bag to implement shoppable links on its Instagram page to enable consumers to easily identify and shop the products, noting that the dress and bag were “now available” for purchase.
JULY 2019 – Vila v. Monse LLC, 1:19-cv-07078 (SDNY)
Monse is in trouble for posting a photo of Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez to its Instagram account without licensing it from the copyright-holder photographer who took it. That is what Carlos Vila asserts in the lawsuit he filed against the New York-based brand in a Manhattan federal court. According to Vila, Monse – which was launched to much fashion industry fury in 2016 by now-Oscar de la Renta creative directors Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia – “is not, and has never been, licensed or otherwise authorized to reproduce, publicly display, distribute and/or use the photograph.” Although, the photo at issue did appear to have been licensed to Vogue to use on its site. More than that, the brand was not legally allowed to “falsify, remove and/or alter” the copyright management information, which identified Vila “as the photographer of the photograph.”
JULY 2019 – Splash News and Picture Agency, LLC v. Nicki Minaj, 2:19-cv-05822 (C.D.Cal.)
In July, Splash News filed suit against “rapper, singer, songwriter, actress, businesswoman, and entrepreneur” professionally known as Nicki Minaj” for allegedly “copying” seven different photos – including ones depicting her “in a multi-colored Oscar De La Renta gown outside of the Harper’s Bazaar Party in New York City,” “in a plaid Burberry outfit in New York City,” “at a NYFW party in New York,” and in “a cheetah print outfit” – which appear to have been licensed to and taken from the Daily Mail – and “distributed them” for display to her 91 million Instagram followers.
The well-known photo agency claims that the photos at issue “are creative, distinctive, and valuable,” and because of Minaj’s “celebrity status, [as well as] the photographs’ quality and visual appeal,” Splash News and the photographer it represents “stood to gain revenue from licensing” them. However, Minaj’s unauthorized use of the photos “made them immediately available to [her] 91 million followers and others, consumers of entertainment news … who would otherwise be interested in viewing licensed versions of the photographs in the magazines and newspapers that are [Splash News’] customers.” As a result, Minaj directly impaired “the existing and future market for the original photos.”
JULY 2019 – Vila v. Alison Lou LLC, 1:19-cv-06634 (SDNY)
Carlos Vila, a professional photographer, sued celebrity-favored jewelry company Alison Loufor copyright infringement. According to Vila’s complaint, which was filed in a New York federal court in July, Alison Lou – whose Instagram includes a running series of stories called page “Loucitings,” in which it documents sighting of celebrities and influencers wearing its jewelry – postedaphotograph he took featuringmodel Emily Ratajkowski in a pair of its earrings. “Alison Lou did not license the photographs from [Mr. Vila] for its Instagram Story, nor did Alison Lou have [his] permission or consent to publish the photographs on its Instagram Story,” the complaint asserts.
JULY 2019 – Barbera v. Christian Siriano Holdings LLC, 1:19-cv-06155 (SDNY)
A photo of Lady Gaga from May 2018 has landed Christian Siriano in hot water. The musician-slash-Oscar winner stepped out in New York City in a striking crimson frock from the designer’s Fall/Winter 2018 collection to much media fanfare and paparazzi attention. One of the photographers who captured an image of Gaga, Robert Barbera, who asserts in his lawsuit that Christian Siriano posted the image on its Instagram without licensing the photo or otherwise seeking and receiving his authorization to do so.
JULY 2019 – Peterson v. Frame LA Brands, LLC, 1:19-cv-06583 (SDNY)
Photographer Christopher Peterson filed suit against Frame LA in a New York federal court in July, accusing the Los Angeles-based brand of copyright infringement in connection with a photo of Karlie Kloss. According to Peterson’s complaint, he took photos of the model while out in New York City in March that he licensed to the Daily Mail, which ran them alongside an caption noting that she was “a black leather blazer from FRAME over an off-white button-down top with a black pencil skirt, dark pantyhose and black heels.”
However, unlike the Daily Mail, which paid Peterson to use the imagery, Frame LA posted the images of Kloss as part of an Instagram “without a license”and without his “permission or consent” as a “tool to promote and sell its products,” thereby running afoul of copyright law.
JULY 2019 – BackGrid USA, Inc v. Citizens of Humanity, LLC, 2:19-cv-06078 (C.D. Cal.)
BackGrid – one of Hollywood’s largest celebrity photograph agencies, which “owns the copyrights to [millions of] in-demand celebrity photographs – filed suit against Citizens of Humanity in a California federal court, accusing the denim-maker and its brand AGOLDE of posting images of Sofia Richie, Jessica Biel, Zayn Malik, and Caitlyn and Kendall Jenner without its authorization. According to Backgrid’s complaint, which was filed in mid-July, while each of the licenses it grants to “top-tier outlets, such as TMZ, Entertainment Tonight, New York Post, People Magazine, Huffington Post, the Daily Mail, as well as many television stations, newspapers and other prominent media outlets throughout the world,” is worth “up to hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Citizens of Humanity posted at least 4 of its images “on various media outlets including Twitter and Instagram to promote their clothing items” without licensing them.
JULY 2019 – Peterson v. Marc Jacobs International, 1:19-cv-06121 (SDNY)
Marc Jacobs is being sued by photographer Christopher Peterson for posting one of his photos to its Instagram without licensing the photo or receiving permission from the professional photographer. According to the complaint that he filed against the New York-based brand in New York federal court on July 1, Peterson claims that he took a photo of supermodel Bella Hadid – in a Marc Jacobs sweatshirt – and her boyfriend The Weeknd in New York in January, only to have Marc Jacobs post the copyright-protected image to its Instagram account the very next day.
Peterson asserts that while he licensed the photo to the Daily Mail, which “ran an article that featured the photograph,” he did not license it to Marc Jacobs. Yet, he claims that the LVMH-owned brand posted the image on its heavily-followed Instagram account “to promote Marc Jacobs clothing,” namely, the sweatshirt that Hadid was wearing, which was on sale at the time, and was sure to “crop off the watermark [stating, ‘Christopher Peterson’].”
MAY 2019 – Barbera v. Ariana Grande and Grandari, Inc., 1:19-cv-04349 (SDNY)
Robert Barbera is taking on Ariana Grande. According to the Splash News photographer’s suit, which was filed in a New York federal court, he “photographed singer, songwriter and actress Adriana Grande,” who turned around and posted two of the photos on her Instagram account this summer to promote the release of her “Sweetener” album without his authorization. Just a couple of months after it was filed, the case was settled out of court in mid-July.
MAY 2019 – Barbera v. CBS Interactive, Inc., 1:19-cv-04298 (SDNY)
Photographer Robert Barbera, who has been on a litigation spree as of late, filed a copyright infringement against CBS, alleging that the media giant infringed his rights in a photo of Justin Bieber by “reproducing and publicly displaying it” in an article documenting the “most liked Instagram pics” on March 13. According to Barbera, “CBS did not license the photograph from [him]” for its article, “nor did CBS have [his] permission or consent to publish the photograph on its website.”
APRIL 2019 – Barbera v. Versace USA, Inc., 1:19-cv-03563 (SDNY)
Versace is being sued over photos of Jennifer Lopez. The American arm of the famed Italian design house has been slapped with a copyright infringement lawsuit for posting two photos on its highly-followed Instagram account of the musician-slash- actress in head-to-toe Versace at an MTV Video Music Awards after party this summer without licensing the photos or otherwise seeking and receiving photographer Robert Barbera’s authorization to do so.
According to Barbera’s complaint, which was filed in a New York federal court in April, Versace “willfully, intentionally, and purposefully, in disregard of and indifference to [his] rights … infringed [his] copyright in the photographs by reproducing and publicly displaying [them] on [Instagram].” As it turns out, “Versace is not, and has never been, licensed or otherwise authorized to reproduce, publicly display, distribute and/or use the photographs” of Lopez, a longtime friend of the brand, who made headlines after attending the Grammy Awards in February 2000 in a plunging green Versace silk chiffon dress.
MARCH 2019 – BackGrid USA, Inc. v. Fashion Nova, Inc., 2:19-cv-01476 (C.D.Cal.)
According to BackGrid’s complaint, which was filed in a California federal court in March, it is in the business of licensing its copyright-protected photos of well-known celebrities to other outlets in furtherance of deals that are worth “up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Despite using BackGrid’s images of Kourtney Kardashian, Blac Chyna, Amber Rose, and 21 Savage on its site, BackGrid asserts that Fashion Nova never licensed or received its authorization, and instead, opted to simply “appropriate [the copyrighted images] for itself.”
JANUARY 2019 – Xclusive-Lee, Inc., v. Jelena Noura “Gigi” Hadid, 1:19-cv-00520 (EDNY)
Supermodel Gigi Hadid was sued for a second time in federal court in Brooklyn, New York in January 2019. According to Xclusive-Lee’s complaint, Hadid “copied and posted” one of its photos of her to her Instagram “without license or permission from Xclusive,” prompting the photo agency to file – and ultimately, lose – a copyright infringement suit.
Hadid ultimately prevail when the court dismissed the case, finding that Xclusive-Lee had not registered the photo at issue before filing suit.
FEBRUARY 2018 – Odell Beckham Jr v. Splash News and Picture Agency, LLC and Miles Diggs, 2:18-cv-01001 (E.D. La.)
In a role reversal, football star Odell Beckham Jr., filed suit against photographer Miles Diggs and California-based Splash News & Picture Agency for allegedly attempting to “extort” him into paying $40,000 after he posted a photo of himself on his Instagram account. “The audacity of Splash News to demand payment from Beckham – the very person who provided value to the Photos – is shocking, reeks of bad faith, and emphasizes the utterly troll-ish behavior of Diggs and Splash,” the complaint asserted.
Beckham alleged that Diggs sold or licensed the images to Splash, which then licensed them to a variety of gossip websites, including TMZ, and DailyMail.com, in exchange for a royalty fee. However, “The only reason that the photos have any value is because they depict Beckham,” according to the complaint. “Yet, Beckham received no compensation from Diggs or Splash.”
That case ultimately settled out of court in February 2019.
JANUARY 2018 – Splash News and Picture Agency, LLC, v. Jessica Simpson, et al, 2:17-cv-00591 (C.D.Cal.)
According to Splash News’ complaint, which was filed in federal court in California, Simpson “or someone acting on her behalf” took a copyright protected photo from the Daily Mail’s website and published it on Simpson’s social media accounts. While Splash News alleges that the Daily Mail obtained a limited license to publish the photo online in August, Simpson, herself, did not receive authorization to post the photo.
That case ultimately settled out of court in March 2018.
SEPTEMBER 2017 – Cepeda v. Jelena Noura “Gigi” Hadid and IMG Worldwide, Inc., 1:17-cv-00989 (E.D. Va.)
Gigi Hadid was slapped with a copyright infringement lawsuit after posting a photo of herself on her Instagram and Twitter accounts last summer. According to a the suit filed by photographer Peter Cepeda in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 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.”
That case ultimately settled out of court in December 2017.
APRIL 2017 – Xposure Photos UK Ltd. v. Khloe Kardashian et al, 2:17-cv-03088 (C.D.Cal.)
Khloe Kardashian made headlines in April 2017 when she was sued by Xposure Photos for posting a photo of herself on her Instagram account last fall. According to its suit, Xposure claimed 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.
Following mediation, that case settled in February 2018, with Kardashian later saying that she “had to pay a lot” in connection with the settlement.