Company Suing Gigi Hadid Faces Possible Dismissal of Case
In January 2019, supermodel Gigi Hadid became the defendant in a lawsuit for copyright infringement. She was sued by Xclusive-Lee, Inc., a New York business, in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York. (Case No 1:19-cv-00520).
In a recently published article from Forbes, we are reminded that the complaint against Hadid contained allegations that Hadid “copied and uploaded” a copyrighted photograph to her own social media account “without license or permission.” Hadid subsequently removed the picture from her Instagram account. Before doing so, however, more than one and a half million people “liked” it. In its complaint, Xclusive-Lee, Inc. asked the court to award statutory damages, attorney’s fees, an injunction and any “realized profits” as allowed by the Federal Copyright Act.
Attorney Alleges That Complaint Fails to Show Copyright Ownership
The Forbes article also provides us with an update on the case. Hadid’s lawyer is preparing to ask the court to dismiss the lawsuit. In a letter to Judge Pamela K. Chen, the attorney outlines the arguments he plans to pursue in support of his request. Hadid’s lawyer contends that Xclusive-Lee did not hold a valid copyright at the time it filed its complaint and that it fails to name the photographer who created the picture.
This lawsuit, at its core, is not unusual. Photographers across the county have filed federal claims against celebrities for using pictures of themselves in violation of copyright law. Copyright cases involving photography often contain similar allegations and legal issues. Many photographers have succeeded in collecting monetary damages from celebrities who use pictures without permission, even when the images are of themselves.
Photograph Posted on Instagram: Hadid’s Lawyer Cites “Fair Use” Defense
For photographers following this case, the most interesting and possibly concerning legal argument by Hadid’s lawyer may be that, even if the Judge decides that Xclusive-Lee holds a valid copyright, Hadid’s use of the photograph in question falls under “fair use.” Using the picture as Hadid did, her attorney claims, does not violate copyright law. A decision in Hadid’s favor could make it easier to for celebrities to use images of themselves without permission from or payment to the photographers who work hard to capture their images.
The four elements of fair use that the court considers in copyright cases involving photographs are:
- The purpose and character of the use of the photo- was it for commercial purposes? If so, it is more likely to violate the law.
- The nature of the copyrighted work- Was the photographer trying to convey ideas, emotions, or influence the subject’s expression or pose? If so, it is more likely to be an infringement.
- How much of the work was used? Was it a small part of a larger photo? The more of the original is central; the more likely the court will rule that it is infringing on a copyright.
- Finally, what effect did the use of the photo have on the market? The value of the picture? Profits for the company? The more impact, the more it may be a violation.
It is More Important Than Ever For Photographers to Protect Their Copyrighted Work
What will the court’s decision mean for paparazzi and photographers who take pictures of celebrities for a living? Whether Hadid’s attorney is successful in having the case dismissed may have serious ramifications. One clear thing, however, is that if you are a photographer, it is more important than ever to protect your copyrighted material and your right to control the use of your work.
Contact Us for Help Protecting Your Copyright. You can reach our copyright attorney at Liebowitz Law Firm, P.L.L.C. by calling 516-233-1660.