Celebrities are constantly complaining about the paparazzi: they’re rude, invasive, and prime for getting regularly trash-talked and roughed around. But let’s not lie—we’re all vain creatures—sometimes someone will snap a particularly candid flattering photo of yourself, and you want to blast it on all forms of social media to celebrate the rare moment.
That must be how celebrities feel when they come across a particularly good paparazzi photo of them, which is probably exactly what Jessica Simpson was thinking when she shared a photo of herself on her Instagram and Twitter that a papparazo had taken of her. But here’s the difference between you and Jessica Simpson: she’s actually being sued by the paparazzo for posting their photo of her without proper permission back in August 2017. It’s a crazy world out there ladies and gentlemen, and copyright infringement is no joke.
On Aug. 9 of last year, Simpson posted a series of photos of herself leaving The Bowery Hotel in New York on her social media. Soon afterwards, Reality TV World, a celebrity news outlet, picked it up from Simpson’s accounts and distributed it online. Today, The Hollywood Reporter reports that the photo belongs to Splash News and Picture Agency, a Nevada-based celebrity news company. They are now suing Simpson and Reality TV World for copyright infringement.
At the time, Splash had granted The Daily Mail a limited license to publish the photos online, but it never extended the permission to Simpson or Reality TV World. Simpson posted the photo without a watermark, so Splash can now claim they never received credit for their work. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday.
"Simpson or someone acting on her behalf copied the Photograph and distributed it on Instagram — within hours of its original publication on August 9, 2017," writes attorney Peter Perkowski in the court documents. "The copy of the Photograph that Simpson distributed on Instagram had been altered, without authorization or approval, to remove the CMI showing plaintiff as the copyright owner of the image."
The lawsuit further claims that Splash could have made more money from the photos, but since Simpson posted them publicly to her 11 million followers, Splash missed out on significant licensing revenue.
"Simpson’s Instagram post and Twitter tweet made the Photograph immediately available to her nearly 11.5 million followers and others, consumers of entertainment news — and especially news and images of Simpson herself, as evidenced by their status as followers of her — who would otherwise be interested in viewing licensed versions of the Photograph in the magazines and newspapers that are plaintiff’s customers," the lawsuit states.
The situation sounds crazy enough, but the same thing happened to Khloé Kardashian in April of 2017. Kardashian was sued for $25,000 by a U.K-based photo agency after posting a photo of herself on her social media without the required licensing.