Why celebrities get sued for posting paparazzi photos of themselves

Originally published at: Why celebrities get sued for posting paparazzi photos of themselves | Boing Boing


This is verily the dumbest of all possible timelines.


Paparazzi are scum in just about any way one can imagine.


The entire celebrity following culture needs to die, including making money off of paparazzi pictures.

That being said, if your likeness is what makes the photo valuable, there should be a fair use argument to be made.


Giving the subject of a photo copyright ownership would have a lot of downsides too. For example, I wouldn’t want to live in a world where South Korean Vietnamese police chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan was able to assert legal ownership of this image:

It would be nice if there was at least some kind of “fair use” provision carved out for the subjects though. Especially for paparazzi since they are essentially professional annoyers.


You may not own the copyright of a photo of which you are the main content, but it is very probable that you still have rights pertaining to it. These flow from the general idea that random photographers don’t get to exploit your likeness for commercial purposes without your consent by publishing your photograph. The details are complicated and in the US vary from state to state.


As a portrait artist, this is quite important, as I don’t want folks going around using my artwork to make a profit for themselves. :man_shrugging:


I get that, but I sort of feel like the pendulum has swung too far in favor of copyright maximalist?


Roughly speaking a photographer doesn’t need a release or personality rights if you are in public, making a public display of yourself. Or in the case of public figures (when acting as public figures) and things in the public interest.

Or if use is non-commercial.

A lot of it’s rooted in whether there’s a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Basically paparazzi exploit the gaps there. Effectively claiming celebrities are public figures, have made themselves articles of public interest. And that there can be no expectation of privacy so long as they are in some cockamamie way visible from a public space.

Then it’s just raw volume. They take and publish so many photos that it’s impossible to stamp down with lawsuits. Plus there’s a whole mutually assured destruction thing between PR and gossip press, access journalism and all that.

In a lot of cases the press photos you see are done with permission, or are staged. Those that aren’t it all kinda floats on “try and prove it” basis.

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I do all my own paparazzi work, that way nobody can sue me.


IMHO, I reserve that territory for total asshat vultures like Prenda Law.

When celebrities post images of themselves taken by other folks, it’s still a form of self-promotion using works that are not your own, so I just can’t get on board with that. It endangers copyright for so many forms of visual representation beyond photos or video.

And before anyone jumps in trying to make it sound like I’m pro-paparazzi, I do believe there is way too much leeway in the methods many paparazzi use to obtain photos. The law should restrict that to events and other “on set” work.


Of course, having the photo taker own the copyright also means that when you ask some random person to take a commemorative photo of you and whoever with your phone, that person probably owns the copyright to that photo…

South Vietnamese

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Yep, derp.

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I’m pretty sure use of a model release doesn’t directly correlate on whether the person is in public or not. Here’s a pretty good overview from a lawyer’s perspective: https://improvephotography.com/48423/model-release/

Yeah, it’s stalking and harassment. It’s just unfathomable that it isn’t illegal.


That primarily seems to deal with art photography. Especially portraiture. It only really addresses the public thing with regards to fine art photography, and the News aspect with pap shots as the example.

It’s also focused on model releases (there are other kinds) and exploiting a specific persons image for commercial purposes. Doesn’t address expectations of privacy.

So it’s a lot more narrow that what I was talking about.

What I outlined above is what we were taught in film school, by lawyers. As the generalized framework for shooting in public.

So to take his Jennifer Anniston example. What he’s saying only counts because she is in public, on a beach right. She does not have an expectation of privacy there.

This same dynamic does not mean you can, without permission, photograph Jennifer Anniston in her house. Where she does expect privacy.

As goes you. Non-public, non-newsworthy person. You may have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place. Like say a drug store or restaurant. You may not in another public place. Like say on a busy street corner.

And if it is not your image that is being commercially exploited it may not matter. Like if you’re just not particularly identifiable in the background.

The type of exploitation also matters. If I have photographed you specifically. I can sell prints, I can sell it to the paper, I can probably use it as part of a movie poster. But I probably can’t sell it as stock photography for advertising use.

It’s complicated, and its always best to get releases where you can.

Paparazzo exploit the complication. Like I said claiming that some one being visible from public equates to being in public. That Newsworthiness and the fact that celebrities seek to make themselves public figures means they have no expectation of privacy in any context. And claiming their work is not commercial, but editorial (and thus needs no release) based on being published as commentary/news in the gossip press.

As wrong as they are. Enforcing these things means constantly suing people over each photograph. It becomes impractical. And celeb media won’t cover your new movie release if you’re fighting it out with their photogs.

So it keeps going.


I don’t even understand the market for these photos. I guess people are way more celebrity crazed than I can fathom.

I sort of get red carpet pics, behind the scenes of movies and shows, or photo shoot pics.

Just going out in sweats to Starbucks?? Who the fuck cares?


There seem to be multiple levels of it, too. Like, people don’t equate themselves with celebrity stalkers when they’re buying People or US magazine, but they’re all participating in the same sick shit.


I’ll just leave this here.