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What Just Happened?

The singer Dua Lipa, popularly known for her hit single ‘New Rules’ was sued for posting a paparazzi photo of herself on Instagram over claims of copyright infringement by Integral Images on 6 July 2021.  

What Does This Mean?

Integral Images, the copyright owner of the photo, sued Dua Lipa for sharing the picture without their permission or authorisation. Despite the fact that Lipa was the subject in the image, the copyright ownership of the image belonged to Integral Images that registered it with the US Copyright Office in February 2021.  

The suit was filed alleging that Lipa’s Instagram account was monetised and the said post would have ‘increased traffic’ and resulted in increase in her advertising revenues and/or merchandise sales. Integral Images sought compensation of $150,000 for the copyright infringement along with litigation costs and attorney fees. It also sought injunction against the singer to prevent her from any such acts of copyright infringement in the future. 

The photo in question was posted by Lipa on 7 November 2019 about four days after it was taken. It showed the singer waiting in line at the airport in an oversized hat, and that she captioned “I’ll be living under big fluffy hats until further notice” in her Instagram post. The post has now been deleted from Lipa’s Instagram account.  

Prior to this, celebrities like Gigi Hadid, Liam Hemsworth, Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, Ariana Grande et al have found themselves amidst similar lawsuits for sharing their paparazzi photos on social media.

How Does This Impact the Legal Sector?

According to the US Copyright Act 1976, the owner of a copyright is the creator of the work. The protection is granted for original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression. Therefore, in case of paparazzi photos, the photographers who took those pictures or their employers are the exclusive copyright holders. When anyone uses these photos without the authorisation of such copyright holders, it gives rise to copyright infringement.  However, this being the general rule, what has complicated the case of paparazzi photos is the fact that it is those celebrities that are the subject of these photos that provide value to them. Additionally, many times such pictures are taken without the consent of those celebrities. Essentially, it is a win-win situation, with arguably greater value to the paparazzi. 

In order to put up a defence against such copyright claims, the doctrine of fair use is resorted to. Fair use is a legal doctrine that is an exception to copyright infringement. Herein, the court examines whether the use of copyrighted work was ‘fair use’ under four factors namely: (i) purpose and character of work, (ii) nature of copyrighted work, (iii) amount and substantiality of the portion of the copyrighted work used, and (iv) effect of the use upon potential market or value of the copyrighted work. The most important factor that weighs in for the defendants to benefit from the doctrine of fair use is whether the copyrighted work was used for commercial purposes.

This defence was used by Gigi Hadid when she was sued in 2019 by Xclusive-Lee Inc. for posting a paparazzi photo of herself whose copyright was owned by the company. Her arguments in favour of fair use stated that she had not used the photo for commercial purposes, neither it was taken in a studio setting making it a factual work instead of a creative one. She won the case in the federal court wherein her motion to dismiss the case was granted.

It is wondrous how the law needs to keep evolving according to the needs of the time because clearly when copyright laws in the USA came into existence decades ago, it was never anticipated that there would be a string of paparazzi v. celebrity lawsuits in our new world of Instagram and Twitter-wherein a person would have to pay to get the rights over photos of themselves despite being the reason that those photos were of value in the first place. 

Written by Jason Connolly

 

Assessing Firms: 

#Allen & Overy LLP #Bird & Bird LLP #Bristows LLP #CMS #Fieldfisher #Mishcon de Reya LLP #Taylor Wessing LLP #Addleshaw Goddard #Browne Jacobson LLP #Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP #Harbottle & Lewis LLP #Marks & Clerk RPC #Shoosmiths LLP

This Article was Written Using the Following Sources:

Isobel Lewis, ‘Dua Lipa faces lawsuit for sharing paparazzi photo of herself on Instagram’ (8 July 2021, Independet UK) <https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/dua-lipa-sued-paparazzi-instagram-b1880925.html>

Mark Savage, ‘Dua Lipa sued for putting paparazzi photo of herself on Instagram’ (8 July 2021, BBC) <https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-57775670>

‘Dua Lipa sued for posting paparazzi picture of herself on Instagram’ (12 July 2021, RTE) < https://www.rte.ie/entertainment/2021/0712/1234518-dua-lipa-sued-for-posting-paparazzi-picture-of-herself/>

Elizabeth Vulaj, ‘Celebrities and Paparazzi Battle It Out Over Social Media Copyright’ (22 July 2020, Bloomberg Law) < https://news.bloomberglaw.com/ip-law/insight-celebrities-and-paparazzi-battle-it-out-over-social-media-copyright>

Meghan Kent, Katherine Dearing and Danae Tinelli, ‘Keeping Up with Copyright Infringement: Copyright, Celebrities, Paparazzi, and Social Media’ (30 October 2019, IP Watchdog) < https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2019/10/30/keeping-copyright-infringement-copyright-celebrities-paparazzi-social-media/id=115456/>

‘Gigi Hadid sued for posting a photo on Instagram’ < https://www.mandourlaw.com/blog/gigihadid-sued-for-posting-a-photo-on-instagram-copyright/>

Kaitlyn Frey, ‘Gigi Hadid's Motion to Dismiss Copyright Lawsuit Over Instagram Photo Is Granted’ (18 July 2019, People) < https://people.com/style/gigi-hadid-copyright-infringement-case-dismissed/>