LOS ANGELES (CN) – Actor Jared Leto does not own the copyright to a video posted by TMZ that showed him disrespecting pop star Taylor Swift, a federal judge has ruled.
Leto, who currently appears as the Joker in “Suicide Squad” and fronts the band Thirty Seconds to Mars, sued TMZ and its parent company Warner Bros. Entertainment last year alleging copyright infringement.
In the video, Leto provided a commentary on songs from Swift’s “1989” album and said of Swift: “I mean, fuck her, I don’t give a fuck about her.”
After the video went viral, Leto apologized to Swift and her fans on Twitter.
His Dec. 9, 2015 lawsuit claimed that TMZ had stolen video “through illicit means,” after entering into an agreement with Leto’s former videographer Naeem Munaf.
In a ruling issued this past Friday, U.S. District Judge Ronald Lew found Leto’s company cannot claim ownership of the 76-second video.
Munaf was never an employee of Leto’s company Sisyphus Touring – the plaintiff in the case – and had used his own camera and equipment to shoot Leto at his home on Sept. 8, 2015. Munaf never signed a work made for hire agreement either, the 19-page ruling states.
Munaf later tried to back out of $2,000 agreement with TMZ and signed a nondisclosure agreement with Leto’s camp on Dec. 6, two days after he transferred rights to TMZ under the pseudonym, Jake Miller.
“I don’t begin to describe how guilty I felt and stressed from that moment and that no amount of money would be worth the humiliation that I know I have caused for Jared and you, JR,” Munaf wrote in Dec. 7 email to Leto’s representative Jared Rosenberg.
Judge Lew said that by the time of Munaf’s u-turn, it was already too late. TMZ owned the video, even though Leto’s camp retroactively registered four excerpts of video with the U.S. Copyright Office on Dec. 7.
“As Munaf transferred copyright ownership to defendants on December 4, 2015, there was no transfer to plaintiff on December 6, 2015 when Munaf signed the nondisclosure agreements. Munaf no longer had ownership in the excerpt,” Lew wrote.
In granting defendants’ motion for summary judgment, Lew found that an electronic signature was enough to immortalize the agreement between Munaf and TMZ after Munaf had transferred the video and signed under his pseudonym.
Leto said that he will appeal the case to the Ninth Circuit. It was wrong for TMZ to buy what he called “stolen goods” and that Lew had rewarded TMZ “for their duplicity,” Leto said.
“It was wrong of TMZ to exploit material that did not belong to them,” Leto said, according to The Wrap. “Neither myself, nor the employee in question, have any confusion around the issue at hand — he was an employee who was hired to work for us and the footage he shot in the privacy of my home studio was owned by me.”
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