Celeb Gossip Site Liable for Photos of Mila Kunis, Others

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

July 21 — A website that rates celebrity gossip on a scale of “real” to “rumor” infringed photo copyrights by showing screenshots of celebrities from other websites, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled July 20 ( BWP Media USA, Inc. v. Gossip Cop Media, LLC, 2016 BL 232516, S.D.N.Y., No. 13 Civ. 7574 (KPF), 7/20/16 ).

In theory, the Gossip Cop website could legitimately show images from other articles, the court said. But here, the use of images of Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Robert Pattinson were not transformative, so Gossip Cop was not protected by the fair use doctrine, it said.

It was possible for Gossip Cop to take screenshots from other sources in order to comment on the accuracy of their reporting, for example, the court said. But that's not what happened in this case.

Source Material:

BWP Media USA, Inc. v. Gossip Cop Media, LLC

Complaint: Oct. 25, 2013

Gossip Cop had taken screenshots from The Sun, Hollywood Life and TMZ, which had licensed images from BWP Media USA Inc. for use in celebrity gossip articles.

Using Photo for Same Purpose Not Transformative

The court rejected Gossip Cop's argument that its use was transformative because it was commenting on the truthfulness of other sources' news reporting.

However, in showing an image from TMZ, the court said, “No text from the TMZ article or referenced or cited; the existence of the TMZ article is not even acknowledged.”

So, Gossip Cop was not commenting on TMZ's reporting; it was merely reporting about the same incident that TMZ was reporting.

If that were transformative news reporting, then anyone “could take any photograph, announce the photograph's contents, and call that ‘fair use,' ” the court said. “Using a photo for the precise reason it was created does not support a finding that the nature and purpose of the use was fair.”

Judge Katherine Polk Failla issued the court's ruling.

Sanders Law PLLC represented BWP. Leason Ellis LLP represented Gossip Cop.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at amazumdar@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek at mwilczek@bna.com

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