Paparazzi Demand Photo Creds From Celebrities - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Paparazzi Demand Photo Creds From Celebrities

Paparazzi Demand Photo Creds From Celebrities

A number of celebrities have been getting into legal trouble for reposting paparazzi photos of themselves on their respective social media accounts.1 Photographers and paparazzi agencies have been suing celebrities including Ariana Grande, Gigi Hadid, and 50 Cent for copyright infringement.2 In these lawsuits, the photographers allege that the celebrities have no rights to the photos and that by sharing them on their social media accounts, they are violating the photographers’ copyrights. 3

Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.4 Under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works (including photographs) are protected by copyright from the moment they are created.5

While many copyright infringement suits have either been settled or resolved in the photographer’s favor, some celebrities are not taking these lawsuits sitting down.6 Recently, Gigi Hadid and her lawyers claimed that by posing and smiling for a picture, and then cropping it before posting it on Instagram, she contributed to many of the elements that copyright seeks to protect.7 Hadid argues that the photo falls under the “fair use doctrine,” and as a result, she did not need to obtain permission to use the image.8

Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.9 Section 107 of the Copyright Act invokes four factors to determine if use falls under the fair use doctrine.10 These four factors include: (1) the purpose and character of the use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.11

Another potential argument that celebrities and their lawyers might employ is that the right of publicity protects them from being sued for reposting photos of themselves.12 The right of publicity is a state-specific legal doctrine that gives individuals the ability to prevent others from commercially exploiting their name or likeness without permission.13 NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. made a right of publicity argument when he was sued for reposting a photograph of himself on Instagram.14 Beckham and his lawyers claimed that “the only reason that the photos have any value is because they depict Beckham…yet, Beckham received no compensation” from the photographers.15

A week ago, Justin Bieber was the latest celebrity to find himself on the receiving end of a lawsuit for reposting a photograph of himself on Instagram.16 While it remains to be seen if the defenses alluded to earlier will convince a judge to side with the celebrities, it may be wise for celebrities to find other methods of obtaining photographs of themselves, such as hiring their own personal photographers. Kim Kardashian did just that earlier this year.17


  1. Paige Leskin, Gigi Hadid Says She Has Rights to Paparazzi Photos with an Argument That Threatens to Change the Way Instagram Reposting Works, Business Insider, (June 25, 2019), https://www.businessinsider.com/gigi-hadid-instagram-reposting-copyright-infringement-lawsuit-paparazzi-photos-ownership-2019-6. [https://perma.cc/2M84-7WJH]

  2. Id.

  3. Id.

  4. Copyright in General, Copyright.gov (last visited Oct. 24, 2019), https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html.[https://perma.cc/4EAK-3952]

  5. 17 U.S.C. § 101 (2012).

  6. Jack Alexander, Model Gigi Hadid Claims Fair Use of Photographer’s Image as She Contributed to It by Smiling, Fstoppers (June 26, 2019), https://fstoppers.com/news/model-gigi-hadid-claims-fair-use-photographers-image-she-contributed-it-smiling-384576. [https://perma.cc/P3QC-YRRH]

  7. Id.

  8. Id.

  9. More Information on Fair Use, Copyright.gov (last visited Oct. 24, 2019), https://www.copyright.gov/fair-use/more-info.html.[https://perma.cc/WUY3-AKH6]

  10. 17 U.S.C. § 107 (2012).

  11. Id.

  12. Lawsuits Over Paparazzi Images on Instagram Raise Celebrity Questions Over Right of Publicity, The Fashion Law (Oct. 19, 2018), http://www.thefashionlaw.com/home/lawsuits-over-instagram-images-raise-celebrity-questions-over-right-of-publicity.[https://perma.cc/UA9L-DB8T]

  13. Id.

  14. Id.

  15. Id.

  16. Olivia Petter, Justin Bieber ‘Sued’ for Sharing Paparazzi Photo of Himself on Instagram, Independent (Oct. 17, 2019 11:26 AM), https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/justin-bieber-sued-instagram-photo-paparazzi-lawsuit-a9159596.html.[https://perma.cc/PG3Q-AFWU]

  17. Ellie Woodward, Kim Kardashian Has Hired a Personal Photographer So Fans Can Repost Her Pics, Buzzfeed (Feb. 7, 2019, 10:05 AM), https://www.buzzfeed.com/elliewoodward/kim-kardashian-personal-paparazzo-fans-post-pics.[https://perma.cc/2QTC-MH6W]

Nicholas Enriquez

Nicholas Enriquez is a second-year J.D. candidate at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal. He is also a competition team member for the Dispute Resolution Society. He holds a Marketing degree from the University of Central Florida.