Sofia Richie, Daughter of Lionel, Sued for Over $1 Million for Sharing Photos of Herself on Instagram

Sofia Richie, Daughter of Lionel, Sued for Over $1 Million for Sharing Photos of Herself on Instagram

Fashion Model Sofia Richie, daughter of Singer Lionel Richie, is being sued for over $1 million by a celebrity photo agency after she posted photos of herself without permission, then refused to take all of them down.

The photos were taken as part of a partnership with Japanese brand Samantha Thavasa in 2017. Richie then posted seven of them on her Instagram, which has over 3.2 million followers, allegedly without permission or payment. Here's where the story gets weird: Backgrid, the celebrity photo agency involved in the suit, claims it sent Richie's lawyers notice of the violations, including a cease and desist letter in October, but only four of the seven images were removed from her Instagram; in fact, at least two of the images were still visible on her account at the beginning of this year. It's unclear why Richie only partially cooperated with the cease and desist, but the result is Backgrid filing a suit seeking over $1 million in damages. Of course, it's not the first time a lawsuit over someone posting pictures of themselves has surfaced, and as social media continues to become a crucial tool for promotion, I'm sure it won't be the last time we see such a case. 

Lead image by Pexels user, used under Creative Commons.

[via International Business Times]

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Elan Govan's picture

an absurd price tag

Dan Marchant's picture

Seems perfectly reasonable to me because that price tag is made up of a whole bunch of separate and serious parts...

1. The cost of doing such a shoot would be high (even if you exclude the models fee). In other words the model would have had to pay a large amount to get those photos legally. If all you charge an infringer is the regular fee (even if it is a large one) there is zero incentive not to infringe. "If I get away with it I save 5 figures... If I get caught I just pay the same as I would have". In fact there is a positive incentive to infringe.

2. This wasn't a simply reshare of a lone image. She used 7 images and each infringement carries a substantial penalty. Those penalties would normally be at the higher end of the scale because....

3. This was wilful infringement. She or her staff acting for her knew these images were copyright because they were watermarked. They none the less went ahead and used them without permission and sought to hide the fact by removing the watermark.

4. Removing the watermark is a separate offence (or rather seven offences as there were seven instances) under section 1202 of the copyright act. This is in addition to the actual infringements. The penalty for these is anywhere from $2,500 up to $25,000 per instance (so up to $175,000).

5. Legal fees - the cost of pursuing such a case would be expensive (six figures) and the guilty party deserves to foot the bill.

6. Her social media accounts are a tool of the trade. Models with large followings can secure the best gigs/pay. Maintaining her following by posting content will make her money from future gigs (quite apart from any Instagram related deals she may have in place). So not onlt was she depriving the copyright owner of the fees they should have received she would also be benefiting financially from her use of the material.

7. The commercial value/cost of an image depends on how many people see it. The licensing fee for an image used in a local newspaper, seen by 10,000 people, is far lower than the same image used in a campaign that is nationwide/multi-media and see by millions. Her follower count is in the millions.