Hollywood Docket: Liam Hemsworth, Rebel Wilson Simultaneously Sued Over Instagram Posts

Liam Hemsworth, Rebel Wilson - Getty - H 2019
Jim Spellman/Getty Images

Isn't It Romantic co-stars Liam Hemsworth and Rebel Wilson are the latest targets of copyright infringement lawsuits sparked by paparazzi photos of themselves posted on Instagram.

Splash News on Sunday sued Hemsworth in California federal court, claiming he infringed its rights in a behind-the-scenes photo of him on the film's set that it licensed to The Daily Mail last year. The pic was posted on Hemsworth's Instagram feed in July 2018 and in June 2019, the first post promoting the film itself and then encouraging fans to vote for it in the Teen Choice awards.

"Legitimate publications to which Splash looks to pay syndication fees are unwilling to pay for work that is already widely disseminated on the internet for free by pirate sites and well-known celebrities," writes attorney Peter Perkowski in the complaint, arguing that Hemsworth's 13 million Instagram followers would have been interested in seeing the photo in magazines that paid to licensed it. Splash argues that the infringement was willful and therefore Hemsworth should pay statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each unauthorized use — plus another $25,000 for removing the watermark.

The same lawyer on the same day in the same court sued Wilson on behalf of Xposure Photo Agency.

Wilson is being sued over photos from the set of The Hustle that were posted to her Instagram and Twitter accounts in April 2018. Similarly, Xposure argues the behind-the-scenes nature of the pics makes them valuable — unless the star's millions of fans see them on social media. This suit seeks the same statutory damages for alleged willful infringement and watermark removal.

In other entertainment legal news:

— A New York judge has denied producer Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald's request to find former Kesha lawyer Mark Geragos in contempt and sanction him. Gottwald claims the lawyer lied about emails being deleted during a deposition, but judge Jennifer G. Schecter isn't convinced. In a handwritten decision she says that "the court does not find his answers to be clearly false as opposed to somewhat ambiguous" and notes that not handing over the emails at issue didn't violate the court's previous order.

— Devin Nunes, a Republican congressman for California, is suing CNN for $435 million. He claims the network is the "mother of fake news" and defamed him in a November story headlined "Giuliani Associate Willing to Tell Congress Nunes Met With Ex-Ukrainian Official to Get Dirt on Biden." (Read his complaint here.)

— Oral arguments were held December 9 before the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in the copyright dispute over best picture winner The Shape of Water. David Zindel sued Fox Searchlight right before the 2018 Oscars, claiming the Guillermo del Toro-directed film ripped off his 1969 play. A California federal judge in July 2018 dismissed the complaint, and Zindel appealed. (Watch video of the full hearing here.) 

— The Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd in November announced she's funding a fellowship through Legal Aid at Work. The Hurd Fellowship will fund five fellows over the next 10 years and will be available to young lawyers who have recently completed law school or judicial clerkships. The fellows' work will focus on the civil rights of low income women and girls who are victims of sexual harassment, intimidation, retaliation and discrimination at work and those seeking equal access to athletic opportunities under Title IX.

In a series of settlements:

— A dispute over Terrence McNally's Anastasia musical has settled. Jean-Etienne de Becdelievre, heir of playwright Marcelle Maurette, in December 2016 sued McNally claiming the show infringes on Maurette's tale of a young woman who claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov.

— Jay-Z's Roc Nation has reached a settlement with Iconix Brand Group in a dispute over a line of New Era caps. Iconix sued in April 2017, claiming the Roc undermined a $204 million licensing deal by releasing the hats in partnership with Major League Baseball without consulting the brand manager. A stipulation of voluntary dismissal was filed November 12.

— Adrienne Lawrence on December 12 filed a stipulation of voluntary dismissal of her discrimination claims against ESPN. The former legal analyst in March 2018 sued the network, which she claimed was "rife with misogyny," after she was passed over for a full-time position following a fellowship with the company.

— Netflix has nearly reached a settlement with the City of Birmingham Retirement and Relief System, ending a 2018 dispute over its bonuses to top execs. The parties on Nov. 27 submitted a joint update to the court that says they've almost finished hammering out the material terms of the deal.

— Discovery Communications has reached a tentative settlement with the Department of Justice in a 2017 dispute over its tax refunds. According to a Dec. 3 joint status report, they've been working to reach a deal for most of this year. The terms have to be approved by the IRS, the Joint Committee on Taxation and a representative of the attorney general before the case is officially settled.