To quote Jenny from the block herself, everyone’s got to make a living — and an ironic example of this is Jennifer Lopez being sued over an Alex Rodriguez photo by a paparazzi agency. Lopez has found herself on the receiving end of a lawsuit in federal court brought by Splash News and Picture Agency, a leading source of celebrity photos. If the agency emerges victorious, they’ll walk away with a tidy chunk of change as a result of J.Lo sharing (without permission) a snapshot of her now-fiancé back in 2017.
According to court documents obtained by various news outlets, Lopez is being sued over two claims of copyright infringement for posting a picture of herself holding hands with Rodriguez during a New York City breakfast outing in 2017. Splash “never licensed the photo to [Lopez]. Nevertheless, Lopez (or someone acting on her behalf) used it without authorization or permission to do so,” the suit claims, seeking $150,000 in damages for each claim.
“Because of the subjects’ celebrity status, and the photograph’s quality and visual appeal, [Splash and its photographer] stood to gain revenue from licensing the photography,” reads the suit. “But [Lopez’s] unauthorized use harms the existing and future market for the original autograph.” The suit also claims — and reportedly has documentation to back the claim — that Lopez had been notified back in 2017 “through her representatives,” via letter, of the infringement.
Lopez is the latest in what seems to be a rapidly growing list of celebrities being sought out for legal recourse by paparazzi agencies. Of course, this is a complex and problematic issue. Paparazzi tend to take photographs without the permission of the celebrities pictured, so it seems unfair for the paps to turn around and sue their subjects when they use images of themselves. However, taking photos of a celebrity in public doesn’t require permission, according to the First Amendment. This means that paparazzi are free to snap unauthorized photos of celebrities — but celebrities are technically not free to use those photos in an unauthorized manner.
In July, supermodel Gigi Hadid was similarly sued by a paparazzi agency. She tried to argue that she should have “fair rights” rights to the photo since she participated in it (she smiled and waved). Ultimately, Hadid didn’t have to pay, but not because her argument was proven to have merit. Rather, the paparazzi agency had forgotten to file the official copyright registration for the photo by the time of the lawsuit.
Granted, $150,000 times two isn’t going to break Lopez’s bank account. Still, it is a lot of money, and represents a problem that will likely get worse before it gets better. Will Lopez use the lawsuit to work toward a solution between celebs and paparazzi? Stay tuned.