July 31, 2019
As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York has dismissed a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against supermodel, Gigi Hadid, who was being sued by paparazzi agency, Xclusive Lee Inc. The agency claimed that the supermodel had violated the company’s copyright by re-posting, to her personal Instagram page, one of their photographs of herself without a licence or permission.
The Court dismissed the case because the agency failed to obtain registration of a copyright in the photographs prior to commencing the action, as required by the Copyright Act. The Court also refused to allow the agency to refile the complaint even if it receives registration of the copyright, as this would render the registration requirement a “meaningless formality.” Having dismissed the claim on this basis, the Court did not consider Hadid’s novel legal arguments that: (1) posting the photograph constituted fair use; and (2) she had an implied licence permitting her to re-post the image.
In a statement to People, the supermodel’s lawyer, John Quinn, reportedly said: “We are pleased that the Court granted our motion to dismiss this meritless case. The Court’s decision recognized this case for what it was — an effort to extract a settlement from Ms. Hadid with little regard for the basic requirements of copyright law.”
Notwithstanding Hadid’s success in this case, celebrities may still be threatened with litigation when they re-post paparazzi photographs on social media. Jennifer Lopez, 50 Cent, Jessica Simpson and Khloe Kardashian have all found themselves in similar legal predicaments. In each of these cases, the celebrities faced fines or reached undisclosed settlements with the paparazzi agencies.
To avoid such litigation, celebrities may be forced to take a page out of Kim Kardashian-West’s book, who owns 100% of the photos she posts on social media. By doing so, Kardashian-West ensures that fans have the ability to re-post images freely without paparazzi agencies claiming copyright infringement.
Authors: Jaclyn Tilak, Madeline Warren and Rachel Oster