December 9, 2019
A photographer recently sued celebrity singer Justin Bieber for posting a photo of himself on Instagram. The case has since been settled but it raises interesting issues regarding copyright ownership.
According to Digital Music News, on October 16th, photographer Robert Barbera sued both Bieber and the company that controls Bieber’s brand in a New York court. Barbera had taken a photo of Bieber sitting in the back of a car next to Rich Wilkerson Jr., a Miami pastor, and proceeded to copyright the photo. Bieber later posted the photo to his Instagram account, without asking Barbera for permission or licencing it from him. The photo attracted approximately 4 million likes (at the time) and still lives on Bieber’s Instagram profile.
The lawsuit called for Bieber to transfer to Barbera all of the profits he made from posting the photo and sought to enjoin Bieber from using Barbera’s work in the future. Barbera also requested $150,000 per infringement as well as punitive damages.
As reported by Billboard, just four days after Barbera filed the suit, the parties settled for an undisclosed amount and Barbara instructed the Court to dismiss the lawsuit accordingly. Although the case was never actually litigated, Barbera’s legal action against Bieber is a cautionary tale to social media users who use the artistic work of others, even if that work depicts their very own selves.
Authors: Sam Galway and Jordyn Benattar