Miley Cyrus sued for posting paparazzi photo of herself on Instagram

Miley Cyrus is facing a copyright lawsuit over claims she posted a photo of herself on social media, filed by the same paparazzo who sued Dua Lipa for the same last month.

In a complaint filed Friday in Los Angeles federal court, the photographer Robert Barbara claimed that Cyrus reposted her 2020 photo — a snap of her waving to onlookers as she exited a building — without a license or any kind of permission to do so.

She is the latest superstar to be hit with this kind of bizarre-sounding lawsuit. Over the past few years, Justin Bieber, Ariana GrandeEmily Ratajkowski, LeBron James, Katy Perry and others have all faced similar lawsuits accusing them of infringing copyrights by reposting images of themselves.

Barbara in particular has made a name for herself by bringing such cases. He filed the previous lawsuits against Grande and Bieber (both cases were eventually settled on confidential terms) and earlier this summer, filed another against Dua Lipa it is still pending in court.

Unfortunately for Cyrus, such cases are not exactly worthless. Although it may sound unfair to a celebrity hounded by paparazzi, the copyright to a photo is almost always retained by the person who took it, and being featured in a photo does not give anyone the right to use it for free. If she actually reposted it without permission, she could be held liable.

“The misunderstanding of celebrities [is] just because they are the subject of an image doesn’t mean they have any ownership of it.” Nancy Wolffsaid a lawyer at the law firm Cowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard Billboard in June. “Not everyone really understands the difference between rights of privacy and publicity and copyright.”

In the current case, Barbara claims that Cyrus has a “huge presence” on Instagram, including 169 million followers when she posted the photo in February 2020. He says that means her blasting his photo “crippled, if not destroyed ” his ability to make money by licensing it.

The suit did not include a specific request for damages, but copyright law allows a plaintiff to seek either their “actual damages” — the money lost due to infringement — or fixed “statutory” damages, which can be as much as $150,000 per infringed work. A representative for Cyrus did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.

Such lawsuits usually end in quick settlements, but some celebrities have chosen to fight back.

After Ratajkowski was sued in October 2019 over a photo of her carrying a large vase of flowers down a New York City street, the model and actress described her anger over the case in an essay in New York magazine’s The Cut website: “I learned the next day from my own lawyer that despite being the unwilling subject of the photograph, I could not control what happened to it.”

In court, Ratajkowski’s lawyers argued that her use of the photo was a legal “fair use” because she had posted it on Instagram as a criticism of invasive paparazzi. They claimed she had altered the image from aexploitative image” snapped without her consent to “a comment on the harassing and relentless behavior of the paparazzi such asplaintiff.”

Ultimately, however, Ratajkowski reached a settlement to end the case before the judge was able to rule on those arguments.

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