Why Some Celebs License Photos of Themselves and Others Steal Them

When news broke Monday that Miley Cyrus was facing a copyright infringement lawsuit for allegedly posting an image of herself on Instagram without the photographer’s permission, it sounded familiar.

Another celebrity allegedly abused intellectual property and was sued by a photographer for posting a photo on his social media without first obtaining a license or consent. It’s become almost a formula at this point.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen celebrities like Dua Lipa, Emily Ratajkowski, Bethenny Frankel, and rapper Nas face copyright infringement lawsuits by a photographer for the exact same infringement.

So why do some celebrities allow social media photography and others don’t?

After being sued by Xposure Photos for sharing one of the agency’s photos on her Instagram account in 2017, Khloe Kardashian revealed that she now licenses the images before posting them online. But it’s not without grievance on Kardashian’s part.

In 2018, she tweeted that the photographers image license “makes no sense” to her because she is “reposting an image of MYSELF”. Likewise, she Fans couldn’t believe that Kardashian also had to get permission to do it.

In other TweeterKardashian continues “They [paparazzi] can legally stalk and harass me and on top of all that, I can’t even use the pictures of me.

Kardashian’s protest that photographers are “harassing” her may seem dubious when the historic relationship between celebrities and paparazzi is generally far more collaborative and mutually beneficial. An old rolling stone The magazine’s owner recently revealed that Angelina Jolie was actually “the tipster” who put up the famous photos that broke the news of her relationship with Brad Pitt in 2015. Meanwhile, an article in The Guardian last month estimated that 80% of paparazzi snaps are pre-prepared by the celebrities themselves.

In fact, it’s this “very symbiotic” relationship between celebrities and photographers that actress Lisa Rinna used as reason to fight back defiantly when faced with a $1.2 million lawsuit from a photo agency after posting paparazzi images of herself on her. Instagram account without paying them.

In the end, Rinna settled the lawsuit with the photo agency. And that’s most likely because US copyright law is quite simple when it comes to intellectual property and clearly states that the person who is the “author” of a work is the copyright owner. . In this context, a photographer who takes a photo of a celebrity is the creator of the work and therefore owns the rights to the image.

Despite this crystal clear definition of intellectual property in the eyes of the law, some celebrities still refuse to license images for their social networks and believe adamantly that they should own the photos taken of them, not the photographers. .

In March, Snoop Dogg shared his distaste for copyright law when Nas was sued
for posting an image of himself on Instagram without a photographer, courtesy of Al Pereira. The rapper couldn’t understand how a photographer could sue someone for a photo they were in, and argued that current copyright laws need to be updated.

Model Emily Ratajkowski, who was continued several times for copyright infringement, openly speak against photographers who took advantage of her image and expressed her belief that she should be able to own and control that image.

In October 2019, Ratajkowski was sued for sharing a photographer’s image to her Instagram Stories with the caption “mood forever.” In the photo, she uses a large vase of flowers to hide her face from the paparazzi as she walks down a New York street.

Ratajkowski described her anger and shock at being sued for a photo of herself in her ‘Buying Myself Back’ essay in The cup.

“I learned the next day from my own lawyer that despite being the unwitting subject of the photograph, I could not control what happened to him,” Ratajkowski writes.

“I learned that my image, my reflection, is not mine.”

In court, attorneys for Ratajkowski argued that her use of the image was legal “fair use” because she posted it on Instagram to criticize the intrusive paparazzi. They argued that she had turned the photo from an “exploitative image” taken without her consent into “a commentary on the harassing and relentless behavior of the paparazzi”.

But in the end, Ratajkowski came to an agreement with the photographer.

Other celebrities have argued that they have the right to photographs of them because they are “co-authors” and because they cooperated with the photographer and posed for the picture, so they established themselves as co-creators.

Model Gigi Hadid used this argument in 2019 when she claimed that posting a copyrighted photo of herself on Instagram was “fair use” because she contributed the photo by smiling there. However, courts generally reject this argument, as does the judge who ruled on Hadid’s case – although the lawsuit was thrown out for other reasons.

A screenshot of the Instagram post that was at the center of the copyright infringement lawsuit against Gigi Hadid

In order to circumvent copyright issues when it comes to paparazzi shots, some stars, like Rihanna, form a special relationship with certain press photographers and enlist only them to take their images. In February, Rihanna commissioned paparazzi photographer Miles Diggs to take the candid photo that broke the news of her pregnancy to the world.

Ultimately, some celebrities will continue to infringe photographers’ copyright regardless and share images taken by paparazzi on their Instagram accounts while others will work with photographers who are fully aware of how copyright law works. author. Due to the negative connotations that still permeate paparazzi photographers, some sections of the public will continue to support celebrities who argue that they should own a photographer’s image, but as long as copyright law remains the same , this will be difficult to prove.

Despite a major change in copyright law or how fair use is determined, the strategy of working with photographers rather than actively opposing them is the smarter strategy, at least for the moment. That said, fair use is a topic that is about to head to the Supreme Court and this decision could have an effect on how it and the copyright of the images are determined in the future.


Picture credits: Composite header photo compiled by Images from Depositphotos.

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