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What We Can Learn from the Ariana Grande Copyright Case


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We all know that Grammy award-winning artist 🎤 Ariana Grande can belt out just about any tune. 

However, here’s something you may not know: 

She’s also has been involved in a copyright lawsuit. 😯

If that fact doesn’t surprise you, this one might: 

Grande was sued for posting a picture of herself on Instagram 📸. 

How is this possible? 

Back in 2018, Grande posted two photographs of herself carrying a bag 👛 with the words “Sweetener” (the name of her then-upcoming album) on Instagram copyright music. The photos brought in a whopping 3 million likes 👍.  

Then unknown to Grande, the photographs she posted had been taken by photographer Robert Barbera – not a member of her crew. 

Even more unfortunate, Barbera had also obtained the registered copyrights on the photographs from the United States 🇺🇸 Copyright Office. 

As a result, on May 13, 2019, Barbera filed a federal lawsuit 📜 against Grande, claiming that she infringed upon his copyrighted material. 

What this could mean for Grande

Barbera’s complaint against Grande argues that her Instagram post resulted in lost profits 💸 or statutory damages of up to $25,000 per photograph by law. 

Additionally, Barbera insists that Grande also owes him the attorney fees and costs💲incurred in prosecuting the lawsuit. 

Two steps to take from here

There are two steps Grande’s attorney can take to try to win this case:

Investigation 🔎

The first step in the attorney’s response will be investigating Barbera’s history and background. 

Specifically, they will search for evidence that Barbera did, in fact, register copyrights to the photograph prior to the alleged infringement.

If Barbera did register the photographs prior to Grande’s Instagram post, he is, by law, owed statutory damages, which are often higher 👆than actual damage.

Fair use #defense 🔓

The second step Grande’s attorney will take is utilizing their “fair use” defense. This defense strategy can be used for copyrighted content that has been altered in a substantial way, such as by adding text 💬 or heavy filters. 

Additionally, the fair use defense depends upon the non-commercial use of the content.

Unfortunately, Grande’s Instagram post did not ❌ alter the photograph in any way and was used predominantly for commercial use – to promote her album! 

Based on this evidence, It doesn’t seem that Grande’s attorney will get away with using the fair use defense.

So, what will happen?

Grande’s chances of winning depend on Barbera partaking in illegal activity, such as:

🚫 Violating Grande’s right to privacy by photographing her in a private moment, such as while bathing  🛀 or changing.

🚫 Violating Grande’s right to publicity by using her image for advertising purposes.

In the absence of such violations on Barbera’s part, the judge will most likely rule that he had the unfettered right to use the photographs as he pleased, as well as the right to prevent others – even Grande – from using them. 🤷

Chances are, Grande will settle out of court. 

What this means for you

Grande is not the first person to get caught up in a mess like this.

Recently, registering copyrights on celebrity 👯 photographs has become a trend. In fact, Khloe Kardashian, Gigi Hadid, and Jennifer Lopez have all been involved in situations similar to Grande’s. 

As a content creator, we can learn two lessons from these celebs:

1. Only post photographs that you took on your social media📱.

2. If you hire a photographer to take your picture for a website 🌐 or social media, be sure to receive a written release so that he or she no longer retains the rights to that photograph.

These lessons can be carried over from social media lawyer and images to YouTube and video. Interested in learning more about how to protect yourself from copyright infringement on YouTube? Click here – it could save you millions of dollars 💰!