A woman in Australia was taken to court over an Instagram selfie she posted of herself and Kylie Jenner, after the clothing company she sold claimed the selfie opened them up to litigation. An Australian Federal Court judge ruled the photo was basically an autograph and could stay up, but that the case went to court at all makes social media and influencer rules feel sticky.
According to Buzzfeed News, the plaintiff was one Linda Hammond, who co-founded and owned the sunglass brand Quay. Jenner did a collaboration with and photoshoot for Quay in 2017. After the shoot, Hammond got a selfie with Jenner, which Jenner cleared her to post on her personal Instagram.
That was two years ago—now, a British company called Elevate Brandpartners owns the majority of Quay’s shares. In May, Hammond re-posted the Jenner selfie:
Elevate says the posts—both the one Hammond put up in 2017, and the more recent one—leave room for Jenner to sue Quay, since her nine-month contract with the company has ended. They asked the court to get Hammond to take down the photo and cease using Jenner’s images and/or name. The court did not abide:
But in a judgement published on Tuesday, Justice Stewart found that Hammond owned the photo, and it was unlikely that Jenner would be able to sue the company over the post on Hammond’s personal account.
The photo showed Jenner’s arm extending towards the camera “in a familiar way”, confirming she was the photographer and that the photo was taken with her consent, the judge said. “Its un-posed familiarity and informality would suggest that it was not intended to be anything more than a modern-day photographic equivalent of what was once an autograph.”
Still, with Instagram having the kind of power it has now—i.e., the power to sell clothes, make stars, and funnel money into celebrities’ bank accounts—it seems likely these kinds of lawsuits will happen more often. Back up your celebrity selfies now.