Jared Leto disses Taylor Swift, sues TMZ for posting video

Celebrity, Crime, News, Privacy

Jared Leto doesn’t like Taylor Swift. And now we all know it.

Leto, an Oscar-winner for Dallas Buyers Club and member of the band Thirty Seconds to Mars, listened to Swift’s 1989 album in September, in his home studio with an engineer as part of a recording session. He’s captured on video admiring parts of the album (and trying to figure out how to replicate Swift’s sound and success), but then eventually dismissing it and dissing Swift with several curse words.

Leto is entitled to his opinion about Swift, but the real problem stems from what happened to the video itself. Leto says the video was shot by a videographer he hired and then sold (for $2000 and without his permission) to gossip site TMZ, which promptly posted the video on its site.

Who owns the footage?

The videographer sold the footage to TMZ, which asked the videographer to sign a statement that he owned legal rights to the video, but the videographer refused. Leto then told TMZ they didn’t have the authority to post the footage and warned them not to use it. TMZ posted the footage anyway. Leto then filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement with TMZ’s parent company. His case claims that he owns the footage because he commissioned the videographer.

It’s interesting to note that Leto most likely knew the videographer had sold the tape before it was posted to the site (given that he told TMZ not to post it). Either the videographer panicked and came clean, or Leto knew he was going to do it. Was this possibly a publicity stunt?

Leto does damage control

As part of a public statement, Leto said, “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.” Although this is true, he might be advised to avoid putting his future criticism of Grammy winners on videotape.

Leto has issued a Twitter apology to Swift to smooth the waters.

A flimsy fair use argument

Despite his unkind comments, is Leto in the right to claim copyright violation? It’s true that the person who makes a video is the owner of the copyright, unless he or she agrees to sell that copyright. Presumably the videographer here was working for Leto, so any videos he produced under contract would be owned by Leto.

If TMZ defends the suit instead of settling (which is the most likely outcome in a case like this), it may claim that putting the video on its site was protected under fair use. Fair use is a provision of copyright law that allows other people to use a work, or a portion of it, if they do so for parody, news reporting, criticism, or comment. However, fair use isn’t quite that straightforward, and typically a court must weigh how the material is used (for example, if it’s for commercial gain) and how much of it is used.

While TMZ purports to be a news site, its reputation for gossip-mongering will certainly precede it into a court expecting to hear a true fair use case.

Image courtesy of christianpost.com

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