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Friday, April 11, 2014

Recent Developments in Selfie Law

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has a post discussing a recent lawsuit filed by Katherine Heigl against Duane Reed. Heigl argues that Duane Reed's tweet of a paparazzi photograph of her carrying bags from the store violates the Lanham Act by tricking consumers into thinking she endorses the store. The post notes that there is doubt over whether this suit would succeed, since Duane Reed's tweet may be considered a "communication" rather than an advertisement.

This follows about a month after the internet exploded with terrible copyright law discussions when commentators got it into their heads that Bradley Cooper owned the copyright to Ellen Degeneres' Oscar Selfie (See, e.g., here and here).

The BBC reports that:
Spending lots of time on Facebook looking at pictures of friends could make women insecure about their body image, research suggests.
Which leads me to (only sort of facetiously) wonder whether further research that solidifies a link between selfie-viewing and psychological harm could lead to liability lawsuits against the website (section 230 of the Communications Decency Act could add a fascinating wrinkle to this thought experiment).

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert writes (in one astounding paragraph) about how people may bully others by posting unpleasant comments on people's online selfies, raising the question of whether the insulted selfie-poster could fire back with a lawsuit for intentional infliction of emotional distress (perhaps by drawing on Esposito-Hilder v. SFX Broadcasting for support).

I couldn't resist searching for "selfie!" on Westlaw. I only found two cases involving selfies. In U.S. v. Doe, 2013 WL 4212400 (W.D. N.C. 2013), the court held that a magistrate judge could base the issuance of a search warrant on a police officer's assertion that individuals often take "unflattering" pictures of themselves, and that a suspects phone would therefore probably contain incriminating evidence. In U.S. v. Chaidez-Reyes, 2014 WL 547178 (N.D. Ga. 2014), the court mentioned the possibility that the government could have made similar argument in a cell phone seizure case, but pointed out that the government failed to make this argument.

Selfies implicate a surprising number of legal issues. It seems that there should at least be a law review symposium devoted to the phenomenon. Or perhaps a legal treatise. Smith on Selfies has a nice ring to it, after all.

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