Paris Hilton sued by photographer for reusing her own photos on IG

photo of paris Hilton with aliens

In a rather bizarre little copyright infringement case, socialite and mega-influencer Paris Hilton is being sued for using her own likeness.

This happened when the photographer who took the photos, Claudia Occhipinti, filed suit because Hilton cropped, edited and then posted to Instagram photos of herself that Occhipinti had previously taken for a specific publicity campaign.

According to Occhipinti’s lawsuit, filed this past November 30th, she was hired by Hilton in 2019 to shoot photos of the socialite for a promotion campaign around her Electricity perfume line.

In the filed documents, Occhipinti claims that the images she took could only be used by Hilton to promote her perfume in the media, on packaging, or in advertsing, and that no sub-licensing is allowed.

Her lawsuit further asserts that she’s the sole author, owner and copyright holder of these particular Hilton photos.

photo of Paris Hilton posing

One of Occhipinti’s original shots

The problem that sparked all of these legal assertions was Hilton later using some of these photos of herself on social media.

She did this by cropping them and cutting them into her own Instagram montages in random (and pretty kitschy/weird) situations featuring Barbie, other celebrities, aliens, unicorns and random cartoon characters.

instagram screenshot of paris hilton with Barbie

instagram screenshot of paris hilton with disney cartoons

instagram screenshot of paris hilton with Naomi Campbell

By posting these edited and cropped photos to her IG profile, where she has over 21 million followers, Hilton allegedly deprived Occhipinti of future revenue for the shots.

According to the photographer’s legal filing, “Like many commercial photographers, Ms. Occhipinti’s livelihood largely depends on revenue generated by licensing her original and commercial works for reproduction, distribution, and public display,”

The document also asserts “She also relies on her name being properly credited on her work.”

The suit was filed in California federal court and further asserts that Hilton made unauthorized derivative creations from the photos through cropping, resizing and modifying them in other ways that spoil the aesthetic of Occhipinti’s original work.

This is the main argument in the court filing, which makes reference to several different Instagram post examples with the supposedly misappropriated photos.

The photo montages themselves are amusingly bizarre, to say the least. You could easily categorize them as cringe-worthy, but apparently over 20 million followers disagree.

In one in particular cropped shot of Hilton, originally taken by Occhipinti, the socialite is composed herself standing next to a digitally rendered unicorn with her own catchphrase “sliving” written in fuchsia letters…

Sliving apparently blends the slang term “slaying” with the motto “living, your best life”… or something like that.

instagram screenshot of paris hilton with Unicorn

The legal filing reasserts that “In addition to the infringement of Ms. Occhipinti’s photographs … in some of the infringing uses, even though Hilton knew that Occhipinti was the author and owner of the photographs and should be credited as such,”

It pushes this argument further by accusing, “Hilton placed her own logo or the logo of her companies or products on the photographs as if Hilton or her companies owned the photographs, intentionally creating a false impression and misleading attribution of origin that defendants are the owners or authors of the photographs.”

It’s worth noting that many of these posts are from 2020 or earlier. This is when Occhipinti claims to have discovered them and sent a letter to Hilton and her business interests requesting that the photos be removed from Instagram and that she be paid for their use.

Hilton then brushed these requests off according to Occhipinti, and aside from not paying anything, “refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing.”

Paris Hilton in front of space castle

As can be expected from a lawsuit like this, Occhipinti is now seeking monetary compensation for injunctive relief, damages, litigation costs and attorney fees (all of which she herself initiated).

Frankly, as cringe-worthy as the photos are, and as hard as it can be to sympathize with Hilton in many contexts, in this case, it’s really hard not to sympathize just a bit with Hilton. After all, she re-used photos of her own likeness  in creative ways for a few absurd-looking IG posts.

Both parties should have negotiated future use rights for the photos more clearly, but this claim isn’t likely to win Occhipinti many favors for future celebrity photographic work.

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