Xposure Photos Ltd., a U.K. photography company, filed suit in the Central District of California last week against Khloe Kardashian, alleging that she infringed its copyright when she posted a photo of herself and her sister, Kourtney Kardashian, to her Instagram without authorization or appropriate copyright notice. Xposure is seeking an injunction against Kardashian for damages, costs and fees, among other relief.
Kardashian’s unauthorized posting of the photo, according to Xposure, denies the company of its ability to exploit it for commercial purposes, including licensing the image to The Daily Mail as originally intended. Interestingly, Xposure argues that Kardashian’s use of the photo was commercial in nature, given that Kardashian uses her Instagram for promotional purposes, and, as a result, harmed Xposure’s ability to capture the market and audience for the original photo, namely entertainment news consumers including Kardashian’s 67 million Instagram followers.
Takeaway: This case serves as a reminder that the unauthorized use of photos on social media may result in copyright infringement claims. It will be interesting to see whether this court further concludes that a celebrity’s non-commercial use of a social media account is nonetheless commercial, by virtue of the celebrity’s use of the account for commercial purposes from time to time.