NYTimes Photographer Sues Perez Hilton for $2.1M Over Copyright Infringement


BuzzFeed isn’t the only blog that’s routinely accused of using photographs without permission. American celebrity blogger Perez Hilton (above right) is being whacked with a $2.1 million lawsuit by New York Times photographer Robert Caplin (above left) for publishing 14 photographs without permission.

According to court documents, Caplin claims Hilton (whose real name is Mario Lavandeira Jr.) used 14 copyrighted photographs of Glee actor Darren Criss without asking after Caplin published 32 of the photographs to an online gallery (the photographs were originally published in a New York Times story about Criss’ Broadway debut):


One of the 14 photographs published without permission

One of the 14 photographs published without permission

The Phoblographer reports that although Caplin’s websites contain preventative measures designed to combat “photo theft,” Hilton took screenshots of the photos in order to obtain them.

In addition to publishing the photos, Hilton slapped a “PEREZHILTON.COM” watermark to the photographs and linked the images to a store selling the clothing worn by Criss in the images:

A screenshot showing one of the offending uses

A screenshot showing one of the offending uses

Caplin claims that when he called Hilton after discovering the infringement, he received both an apology and an agreement to take down the photos. That takedown didn’t happen, and Caplin decided to sue—which then caused the takedown to actually happen.

The photographs as they appeared on

The photographs as they appeared on

The photographer is suing the blogger for copyright infringement and violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in refusing to take down the content. Caplin wants $150,000 for each infringement, for a total of $2.1 million.

(via Courthouse News Service via The Phoblographer)

P.S. Caplin is being represented by Carolyn E. Wright and Leslie Burns, two lawyers known for their blog Photo Attorney.

Image credits: Header portraits by Laia Prats and Paparazzo Presents, Criss portrait by Robert Caplin and used with permission

  • 9inchnail

    Good, Perez Hilton is a parasite feeding off of other people since he has no talents or skills himself. Not just stealing photos but actually trying to profit from them (linking to stores) is just disgusting. I hope he doesn’t settle for some out-of-court agreement. Sue that sucker.

  • Andrew W. Nunn


  • Stanco55

    Hopefully, Caplin wins a record winning settlement for this, and the name Perez Hilton will forever be associated with the cost and illegality of photo theft. Caplin is duly compensated, and Perez finally “earns” his celebrity status.

    Win, win!

  • Genkakuzai

    Looks like we’re all in agreement here, good.

  • usmale9659

    Perez Hilton is an obnoxious asshole. I hope he pays big.

  • Liz

    *Millennium. Spellcheck

  • hysyanz

    I cant wait for some one to steal my photos.

  • Kathleen Stoughton-Trahan

    Good Perez is a slim ball and needs to taken down a notch or two for all his hating on everyone.

  • ListenToYourElders

    I don’t care i one way or another about Perez Hilton or about Caplin, either. What I am intrigued with is how he set damages at $150,000 for each photo. Since all the photos had been previously published and obviously seen long before Hilton got hold of them, what precisely are the damages and how were they assessed so that every photograph was worth precisely the same amount. As an attorney, I am quite interested in the damages theory of this case, Those of you who want to talk about Hilton being a jerk or whatever, that’s fine—-but if there are some seriously legal minds out there, ones with law degrees who actually practice law and not a bunch of self-styled “lawyers” I would appreciate a reply. Thanks in advance.

  • Dave

    What everyone else up to this point said.

  • Big Bear

    One thing to bear in mind is that this is not the first time Hilton has done this. He does it often, he always “apologizes”, and he always (until now) gets away with it. If you want to know more about the “legalease” related to this: can I suggest you check out the website of the attorneys in this case, its good stuff.

  • gochugogi

    Hope Hilton gets spanked good. However, when Hilton loses, and he will, I’d be surprised if Caplin gets a dime after lawyer fees. Bloggers work for clicks and 2.1 mil in clicks would take a few decades to make…

  • Igor Ken

    I am not a lawyer but I guess you always demand the maximum so you can have some room for a settlement. Of course he won’t get the maximum …

  • dr. mongo

    boom goes the dynamite.

  • nikanor

    dumb americans… sueing for a goddamn pictures. pft.

  • Matt Walker

    Thank you so much for contributing.

  • 9inchnail

    But Hilton links to stores and gets comissions. He’s making more money than you might think. Just taking other people’s photos and adding some vile gossip is a great business model as long as you don’t get called out.

  • No, not really.

    I love Perez Hilton, and hope he wins.

  • ListenToYourElders

    I understand statutory damages under copyright infringement. I am not a total idiot, Thomas. What a plaintiff can claim as damages and what statutory limits are are not always the same thing. I certainly successfully concluded both settlement conferences and actual trials where the insurance limits (especially in medical malpractice cases) were significantly higher than provable damages. Even adding in pain and suffering (without a cap) did not come close to policy limits (I am making an analogy here to statutory limits, Thomas, in case you did not understand that). Just because there is a copyright infringement doesn’t mean that the actual damages to the plaintiff are equal to statutory limits. That condition would especially apply here since a) all the photos are not equally important nor do they equally damage the plaintiff if in fact they are infringed upon; b) since Caplin already made his money on the photos, or at least whatever money he could make on them, where exactly is he damaged? I think this case is far more complex than you want to make it.

  • Thomas Lawn

    Cool. It sounds to me like you might have related knowledge, but absolutely no practical experience. You might feel as if it is acceptable for you to talk down to everyone, but you’re the one asking silly questions. If you really are a lawyer, you have access to all sorts of books, journals, and databases that would be more that capable of answering your basic questions. If you’re not, google is really cool and you can find a lot of information on it. Or, even better, do as big bear suggested and read the blog of the lawyer who is representing Mr. Caplin. I’m a little dismayed that you, the one looking for “seriously [sic] legal minds out there, ones with law degrees who actually practice law and not a bunch of self-styled ‘lawyers'”, can’t figure this out.

    I’m not a lawyer – but I’m guessing neither are you – but I would guess that to make the damages surpass the limit, they counted each time Perez Hilton’s website loaded an infringing picture as a case of willful infringement, similar to the way RIAA calculates damages for MP3s downloaded.

    Anyway, good luck with whatever it is you do. And remember, next time you have to interact with someone, try not to be such an ass – it only makes you look bad.

  • Pablo

    Your “b)” comment is obviously false given PH appropriated the photos for a money making enterprise. The photos were valuable to PH’s venture as they provided content for his audience to see. They were also valuable as a marketing gimmick for the stores selling the clothing the subject was wearing (hence the links). PH simply refused to pay before or after using the photos.

  • Christopher

    Shouldn’t it be the NY Times pursuing this? Theoretically the Times is the copyright owner if he took them in connection to a story they published and while working for them.