Most social media users can post photos of themselves free of charge. But for celebrities, it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Ariana Grande is the latest celebrity to be sued by a paparazzo after she shared pictures of herself on Instagram that received more than 3 million likes before the post was deleted. Photographer Robert Barbera filed a lawsuit against the “thank u, next” singer because she didn’t license the two photos she posted on Instagram in August 2018, Forbes reported.
The photos in question showed Grande wearing a white sweater dress and over-the-knee boots while holding a clear bag emblazoned with the word “Sweetener,” the title of her fourth studio album. The images were cropped together in a single post, but Barbera is suing Grande for up to $25,000 for each picture or the profits that the singer made on it.
“[Grande] infringed [Barbera’s] copyright in the Photographs by reproducing and publicly displaying the Photographs on the Instagram Page,” the lawsuit states, according to Forbes. “[Grande] is not, and has never been, licensed or otherwise authorized to reproduce, publicly display, distribute and/or use the Photographs.”
Paparazzi and celebrities have been entangled in a photo use battle in recent years, with cases now being known as “copyright trolling.”
Khloe Kardashian was one of the first A-list celebrities to be slapped with a lawsuit after posting an image of herself in 2017. Xposure Photos sued the reality star for a 2016 Instagram post showing her and sister Kourtney Kardashian at a Miami restaurant, a picture that the agency licensed to the Daily Mail. Xposure sought $150,000 in damages for copyright infringement and $25,000 for Kardashian allegedly removing the copyright information.
Both sides later agreed to dismiss the lawsuit and “bear their own fees and costs,” the Daily Mail reported in February 2018.
Kardashian later referenced the lawsuit in a tweet, saying she now licenses images to avoid another photo debacle.
“I have to license some of the images first. A paparazzi sued me in the past for reposting an image of MYSELF. So now it just takes me a little longer because I have to go and license the images so they don’t get my [money] MAKES NO SENSE,” Kardashian wrote in an August 2018 tweet.
Supermodel Gigi Hadid was also sued in January for an October 2018 Instagram post that she deleted when her management team notified she was being “legally pursued” for using the picture. She slammed the photo agency, later identified as Xclusive-Lee, Inc., in a separate post, saying it was “absurd” she was being sued “for a photo he [the photographer] has already been paid for by whatever outlet [that] put it online.”
Xclusive-Lee, Inc. alleged that Hadid “copied and uploaded” the photo to her social media account “without license or permission from X-clusive.” The agency also accused Hadid — who was also sued in 2017 by another photographer for using a picture on social media — of posting at least 50 “uncredited photographs” to her Instagram account, People reported.
Hadid’s team has since requested the court to dismiss the lawsuit under the claim that the photo was fair use for her, Forbes reported.
Other stars who have reportedly faced photo usage lawsuits include Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Simpson, as well as other users who created celebrity fan accounts.
Copyright law favors photographers and -- despite what celebrities claim -- the person who presses the shutter owns the image. Being the subject of the photo doesn’t give the person the right it, let alone post it on social media. Copyright infringement violations could cost a celebrity up to $150,000 for each offense, the law states. Photographers can also sue for additional items such as legal fees.