Injured NFL Star Turns the Table on Paparazzi

(CN) — New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. brought a federal complaint against a paparazzo and a picture agency, claiming their “coercive” business model is to secretly photograph celebrities from long range, sell the photos for profit, then demand thousands of dollars from the celebrities for purported copyright infringement.

Beckham says Splash News and Picture Agency demanded $40,000 from him after he posted on Instagram a photo taken by Miles Diggs, “a notorious paparazzo.”

Suing in New Orleans, Beckham cites Splash’s January federal lawsuit against Jessica Simpson in Los Angeles, on a similar copyright claim.

In Beckham’s case, Diggs photographed him after he returned from surgery on “a horrific injury to his left ankle.” Splash, based in Los Angeles, licensed the photos to TMZ and DailyMail.com.

“The photos clearly demonstrate that Diggs secretly shot the photos through a gate at Beckham’s private New Jersey residence, with the aid of a telephoto lens, and without Beckham’s knowledge or permission,” the complaint states.

Use of the telephoto lens is significant, as case law in several states allows photos of private property to be taken with nonmagnifying lenses, but may allow privacy claims if the photographer uses a magnifying lens. Beckham’s complaint mentions the telescopic lens in two of its four counts.

Represented by Lesli Harris with Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann in New Orleans, Beckham also tries to do an end run against a possible “creative-use” defense from the paparazzi.

“There is nothing creative or distinctive about the point-and-shoot, ambush-style photos, except that they feature Beckham,” he says in the complaint.

Both TMZ and the Daily Mail encourage readers to share their content across social platforms, Beckham says.

“Splash’s licensing of photographs of an injured Beckham not only exploits Beckham’s image for personal financial gain but it is also patently gruesome,” the complaint states.

“The only reason that the photos have any value is because they depict Beckham. Yet, Beckham received no compensation from Diggs or Splash.

“The audacity of Splash News to demand payment from Beckham — the very person who provided value to the photos — is shocking, reeks of bad faith, and emphasizes the utterly troll-ish behavior of Diggs and Splash.”

Beckham, who, like Simpson, developed his own fashion line in addition to his primary career, says he derived no profit from posting his photo on Instagram, and says the post “was not commercial in nature.”

Citing Splash’s lawsuit against Simpson, Beckham says that “a copyright lawsuit against Beckham may be imminent,” and “there is an actual case or controversy between Beckham and defendants Splash and Diggs.”

He seeks declaratory judgment that he is not liable for copyright infringement and damages for appropriation of his likeness, intrusion on solitude and privacy violations.

The 12-page lawsuit skips from Count One to Count Three, and ends on Count Five.

Neither Splash nor Diggs could be contacted for comment over the weekend.

Beckham was a  first-round draft choice for the Giants in 2014, and was Rookie of the Year and elected to the Pro Bowl. His ankle injury knocked him out of the Oct. 8, 2017, game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

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