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Jared Leto, the Oscar-winning actor and frontman of the band Thirty Seconds to Mars, has lodged a notable new copyright lawsuit against TMZ and parent company Warner Bros. Entertainment, alleging that the gossip site published a sensational video after being warned that it was stolen.
The video in question features Leto and an engineer at a home studio critiquing various songs off of Taylor Swift’s “1989” album. Leto is shown as admiring Swift’s work, even going so far as exclaiming (perhaps jokingly) that he wanted to “steal” one of her finer moments of production work. But towards the end of the video, Leto becomes indifferent. “I mean, f— her,” he says. “I don’t give a f— about her.”
Leto later apologized, tweeting out, “The truth is I think @taylorswift13 is amazing + an incredible example of what’s possible. If I hurt her or her fans my sincerest apologies.”
Now, the actor and musician is directing his anger at TMZ for invading his privacy. That’s his moral objection to what the website has done. As for his legal one, his Sisyphus Touring company has brought a copyright lawsuit that could put the Warner Bros.-owned site on its heels with some sort of fair use defense. If the lawsuit goes far, it could also explore TMZ‘s reportorial methods.
“I have chosen to file this lawsuit not because I want to, but in hopes it will encourage more people to stop trafficking in stolen goods, to follow proper legal procedure and so that it may motivate additional consideration for the harm these acts can create, especially when the only intention is to simply further the bottom line for the companies and corporations that commit these acts,” says Leto in a statement (published in full below).
In a complaint filed in California federal court, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Leto (through Sisyphus Touring) says the footage was shot Sept. 8 by a videographer retained by him. This videographer is said to have delivered the video to TMZ in exchange for a promised payment of $2,000.
“TMZ requested that Videographer sign a document confirming he had the legal right to deliver the Footage,” states the complaint. “Videographer refused to sign such an acknowledgement. Prior to any broadcast of the Footage, Plaintiff had advised Defendants that the Footage was stolen, and that Defendants were not authorized to disseminate, display, or publish the Footage on the website TMZ.com or at all.”
The lawsuit adds that TMZ “rushed to publish,” and that 15 minutes after it had done so, the videographer (perhaps suffering from a crisis of conscience) urged the gossip site, “Do not post the footage. I do not own it. I do not have permission.”
As of now, TMZ continues to show the Leto footage on its site.
This isn’t the first time that the Harvey Levin site has been dragged into court after posting material alleged to be confidential and stolen
For example, about a half decade ago, TMZ was hit with a copyright lawsuit over an interview with Michael Jackson’s ex-wife Debbie Rowe. The interview was produced by F. Marc Schaffel Productions, which was granted access to her through an agreement with Jackson himself because the pop superstar had to release Rowe from non-disclosure obligations. After some of the tape aired on Fox News’ Geraldo at Large, Schaffel held on to hours of unaired footage, which wound up in the hands of TMZ, which published an excerpt and then was sued. The case later settled.
The attorney representing Schaffel in that case was Howard King, who is now representing Leto.
THR has reached out to TMZ for comment.
Here’s Leto’s full statement:
“Last Sunday, I was alerted that TMZ had acquired personal and private video footage of me in my home and that they were planning to leak it on their site. My team notified TMZ immediately that I fully owned the footage and that their source had absolutely no rights to sell it. They chose to post it anyway. Let’s be clear. This was stolen footage. This was an invasion of privacy. And it was both legally and morally wrong. Regardless of who we are, we should all be able to talk freely in the privacy of our own homes without the fear that our unfiltered thoughts or actions will get broadcast to the world. We have the right to privacy and security and when we don’t have protections in place to safeguard those things, we lose the freedom to speak loudly and clearly – right or wrong – about anything and everything we choose to. I have chosen to file this lawsuit not because I want to, but in hopes it will encourage more people to stop trafficking in stolen goods, to follow proper legal procedure and so that it may motivate additional consideration for the harm these acts can create, especially when the only intention is to simply further the bottom line for the companies and corporations that commit these acts.”
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