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Image: Alo Photography

Good American is the latest brand to land on the receiving end of a copyright infringement lawsuit in a running string of paparazzi-initiated cases. According to the complaint that it filed in a California federal court on Monday, Alo Photography LLC claims that the Khloe Kardashian co-founded fashion brand is on the hook for copyright infringement in connection a photo of model Bella Hadid that the fashion brand’s “principal,” Khloe Kardashian, posted on her personal Instagram without Alo’s permission or authorization. 

In the newly-filed complaint, Alo alleges that on January 16, 2017, it “authored several photographs of model Isabella Khair Hadid, known professionally as ‘Bella Hadid,’” in New York wearing Good American jeans, which Kardashian subsequently posted on her heavily-followed Instagram to promote the Good American brand. According to Alo, Good American, “via its principal, selected the photographs because they depict a celebrity, Bella Hadid, wearing their product,” and then “copied, stored and displayed [them] without license or permission, thereby infringing on [its] copyrights.” 

As for why Alo opted to file suit against 5-year-old Good American as opposed to – or in addition to – Kardashian, herself, the New York-based photo agency essentially asserts that Kardashian is acting on behalf of the company by “directly promoting [its] merchandise.” Moreover, Alo asserts that Kardashian is “widely known as a founder of the [Good American] business,” and that she and the company “hold her out to the public as such,” including by “labeling her [as the company’s co-founder] on its own Facebook and Instagram accounts.”

Still yet, Alo claims that Good American “has received a financial benefit directly attributable to” the infringing use of the images, as the photos “increased traffic to [Kardashian’s Instagram] account and, in turn, caused [Good American] to realize an increase in its merchandise sales.” 

Instagram post citing Good American
The allegedly infringing use of the plaitniff’s photo

With the foregoing in mind, Alo sets out a single claim of direct copyright infringement on the basis that Good American “improperly and illegally copied, stored, reproduced, distributed, adapted, and/or publicly displayed works copyrighted by [Alo] thereby violating one of [its] exclusive rights in its copyrights,” i.e., its exclusive right to display the works. As a result of Good American’s violation of federal copyright law, Alo asserts that it is entitled to “an award of actual damages and disgorgement of all of [Good American’s] profits attributable to the infringements.” 

The case is the latest in a long line of similar suits that have been filed against fashion brands and public relations companies, alike, for posting images of celebrities wear certain garments and/or accessories to their social media accounts for promotional purposes without licensing the images or otherwise receiving authorization from the copyright holder. At the same time, an even more numerous list of celebrities have been sued for posting images of themselves on their social media accounts without authorized to do so. In fact, Kardashian was named in a since-settled copyright infringement suit back in April 2017 after posting a photo of herself “going for a meal at David Grutman’s Miami restaurant, Komodo” without licensing the photo from copyright holder Xposure Photos. 

While most of these cases have settled relatively early on, supermodel Gigi Hadid fought – and prevailed in – one copyright infringement case filed against her for posting another’s photo of herself on her Instagram. In that case, a New York federal judge found that plaintiff Xclusive-Lee, Inc. did “not allege that it had been formally granted registration of a copyright in the photograph [of Hadid] from the Copyright Office at the time it filed the complaint in this case,” which is a prerequisite to initiating a copyright infringement action. 

More recently, Emily Ratajowski is pushing back against one of the copyright lawsuits filed against her over her use of another’s image. In that case, which is currently underway in a New York federal court, that her use of the photo in which she is obscuring her face with a flower arrangement along with her Instagram caption “mood forever” is fair use, as it serves as a commentary on the state of her paparazzi-plagued life.

A rep for Good American did not respond to a request for comment. 

The case is Alo Photography LLC v. Good American, LLC, 2:21-cv-09117 (C.D.Cal.)