Jennifer Lopez in $150,000 Lawsuit Over Instagram Picture Usage

Jennifer Lopez in $150,000 Lawsuit Over Instagram Picture Usage

Pop singer Jennifer Lopez is the latest public figure to find herself embroiled in a legal battle, after a photographer announced he is suing her for $150,000 damages after she posted his image without permission. 

Lopez added the photo to her Instagram story back in June, accompanying it with a now-ironic caption of "Today was a good day!!"

As per court documents obtained by The Blast, the photographer named in the lawsuit is Michael Stewart. He took the photo of Lopez walking through New York City, before then licensing the picture to the Daily Mail. The photo appeared on their website on June 29 of this year.

Stewart is irritated because neither Lopez nor anyone on her team requested to use the picture, but seemingly lifted it from the news article. As well as Lopez, her production company Nuyorican Productions is named in the suit, which is for copyright infringement. He is seeking any profits she made from using the photo, or up to $150,000 in damages. The difficulty in a situation like this is directly linking Instagram content to actual profits.

The case reignites debate about whether celebrities are allowed to post paparazzi photos of themselves. Last year, Bruno Mars found himself in a similar situation when a photographer took issue with him posting a picture she took of him as a child.

Lead image credit: oouinouin via Flickr CC.

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23 Comments

David Love's picture

Oh piss off. She should sue him for modeling fees. Just change the law that images of people no matter where require modeling releases and this will stop. So i'm checking the mail, someone takes a pic of me and sells it to a newspaper, I then post the picture to say "Hey look, this stalker took a pic of me without my knowledge and sold it." Then I get sued? Strange world.

Yes, you should get sued. Besides, you did have knowledge, you walked outside where there is no expectation of privacy. A celebrity/politician/etc. has his/her PR agent arrange a photo shoot of him/her walking in a crowded restaurant or other venue, under the "Dave Love" statute, the images are useless because there is no way to get model releases for all 125 people in the photo. Like the Judge said, "Next case!"

Pat McEntee's picture

There is a reason that paparazzi are not regarded with high esteem. By some perversion of our copyright laws, a person doesn't own the rights to their image.

You are obviously not a photographer. The subject is not the creator. Duh.

Michael Holst's picture

...Not if the photo was taken in a public place. The photographer owns the image.

Bill Wells's picture

So let me see. If we expand this no-copyright logic. I could just record an artist singing and have unrestricted rights to post it. If photography is ok then recorded voice has got to be ok. I'm just saying...

Michael Holst's picture

IF you did this in a public setting then yes you have unrestricted rights. There's a HUGE difference when you take into consideration where the footage is taken. It's the same reason why we can take photos/videos of people in public.

No. Not the same. Plenty of restrictions regarding music and who you can record with or without consent.

Why isn't an "unauthorized picture" of her automatically "her picture"? Strange world.

Michael Holst's picture

"He took the photo of Lopez walking through New York City" It appears that she was in a public place. She does not own the photo in this case.

William Howell's picture

Do you think the photographer will win? I’m totally against taking photographers pictures and using them like its free, what it’s just a picture.

As called out in the related article it all boils down to the question "Does she have a right to post an image of herself?" It is not about anybody using anybody's photo for free.

Michael Holst's picture

You asked why it wasn't automatically HER picture... AND she did used it without permission. It's pretty simple.

The whole point of being the photographer profession is that people pay you for the content. If you did a location shoot with a family are the photos automatically theirs just because they're in them? Wouldn't they have to pay to obtain prints/files?

A photographer shoots a celeb who is out in public, using $7,000 worth of camera/lens and 30+ years of photography experience, nailing the exposure and composition. That plus an hour in post makes a stunning image. Said celeb simply copies it off the web to use for their personal promotion/advertising/etc for free.

I don't think so.

David Love's picture

Celebs can afford to hire a photographer if they want their picture taken. These people aren't out there stalking to provide a service. Is she going to make money from his picture? Or is this how he makes money using the likeness of celebs? Must be what killed Princess Diana, people chasing her down to provide phototgraphy services for her. It might be the law but it's shite.

Paparazzi, generally, take pictures to sell to the media. The media buys them because the public wants to see them. Many times this results in a benefit for the celebrity, i.e. free publicity. Lopez doesn't have to make money from the picture she grabbed without paying to make it subject to a lawsuit; she got a usable image that impressed her to such a degree she put it on her social media. BTW, the paparazzi didn't kill Princess Diana, it was Dodi Fayed's drunk chauffeur.

Why be here if you're not a photographer and know nothing about the laws.

Gary Pageau's picture

Whomever presses the shutter and captures the image owns the copyright, regardless of the subject. There are situations where the rights can be transferred, but in this case, the photographer took her photo in a public place, so he owns the image. Since he licensed it to the Daily Mail, the infraction would be subject to the conditions of the license. Does the Daily Mail, for example, allow social sharing, and compensate the photographer for these other uses?

This was never meant to question the copyright of the photographer - it is all about fair use. I do understand that this is tricky topic and can only be addressed knowing all circumstances of each individual case.

Michael Holst's picture

Do people forget how photography works in a public place?

You don't need permission to take photos of people in public. Is is polite? that's up for debate...Is it legal? YES!

There is no debate. Anyone that can read can look this up. An article on a photo publication that doesn't understand photo laws is downright pathetic.

Was the picture taken in a public space where the photographer had a legal right to take the photo? Yes.
Does taking said photo in a public place give him copyright over the photo? Yes.
Case closed.

Scott Hallenberg's picture

It’s clear he is able to the image the way he did with no need for a model release (unless he is using the image in other ways now). She will have to make the case that “Fair Use” applies to her, an except to Copyright law. I don’t think it will but only a judge can make the definitive determination. Of course the requested dollar amount may be hard to justify. I’m curious to see how it plays out as the ramifications to unauthorized image usage on social media could be immense.