Journal of Intellectual Property Law


The age-old clash between celebrities and paparazzi has reached a new high. With the trend moving towards the monetization of social media, evolution in mobile camera technology, and lighting-fast sharing capabilities, the need for paparazzi decreases with each year. Because paparazzi want to remain desirable, the infamous conduct of “copyright trolling” is sweeping the intellectual property scene. “Copyright trolling” is the act of searching social media and suing multiple celebrities when the celebrity post a photo of themselves without first paying the licensing fee. Within this year alone, multiple celebrities like Rebel Wilson, Ariana Grande, and Liam Hemsworth have been sued for copyright infringement after posting an unlicensed paparazzi picture of themselves on their personal social media accounts. While it is important to acknowledge the work of a paparazzi photographer, modern times call for an evolution in copyright laws. The Copyright Act of 1976 did not have social media and celebrities in mind when Congress first amended the statute.

Because there is little case law regarding “copyright trolls” due to the overwhelming settlements, this note focuses on Gigi Hadid’s recent case and run-in with a “copyright troll.” Through a case study following her defenses, this note proposes potential solutions while expanding on existing defenses. Further, this note discusses how the Copyright Act can include social media and advanced technology in its regulation of copyright infringement. Finally, this note concludes with a glimpse into the future by proposing new ideas for paparazzi photographers to continue earning a living while lowering the need for “trolling.”