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.
New York-based O’Neil asserts that Hadid infringed his exclusive rights as the copyright holder of the photo “by reproducing and publicly displaying [it] on her Instagram story,” despite the fact that she “is not, and has never been, licensed or otherwise authorized to reproduce, publicly display, distribute and/or use the photograph.” In doing so, O’Neil claims that the 24-year old supermodel ran afoul of his exclusive right to display the image, and distribute copies of it to the public by sale or another form of transfer, such as licensing, among other things. As a result, she should be forced to pay “statutory damages up to $150,000 per work infringed for [her] willful infringement of the photograph,” he argues.
This is the third time that Hadid has been sued for copyright infringement in connection with images she has posted to Instagram. Hadid – who has fronted ad campaigns for the likes of Versace, Moschino, Tom Ford, Prada, and Fendi, among others – was first sued in September 2017 after posting a photo of herself on her Instagram and Twitter accounts. According to the since-settled lawsuit 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.”
Fast forward to January 2019 and Hadid was sued again for posting a photo of herself to her Instagram account. This time, the model was sued in federal court in Brooklyn, New York by photo agency Xclusive-Lee, which alleged that 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.
Following an initial back-and-forth between the parties, including a fair use and co-authorship argument made by Hadid’s legal team, the case was dismissed in July after it was revealed that the plaintiff failed to receive a copyright registration in the photo prior to filing suit, as required by law.
UPDATED (January 2, 2020): According to the docket of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the parties have come to an out-of-court resolution. Counsel for O’Neil filed a notice of settlement on January 1, prior to Hadid filing an answer to the case or a motion to dismiss.
*The case is Robert O’Neil v. Jelena Noura Hadid aka Gigi Hadid, 1:19-cv-8522 (SDNY).