Picture Imperfect: Polaris Brings Suit Against Fox Affiliate Over Photo Usage of Aaron Hernandez’s Fiancée

On November 14, 2018, Polaris Images Corp. filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Fox affiliate Tribune Broadcasting Co. Per the complaint, a Tribune-owned website published a story regarding the late NFL player Aaron Hernandez’s pregnant former fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, and used a photograph of Jenkins therein.

According to the article, entitled “Aaron Hernandez’s fiancée Shayanna Jenkins announces pregnancy,” the caption beneath the photograph in question credits “Shayanna Jenkins Instagram.”  However, Polaris claims “Tribute did not license the photograph from plaintiff for its article, nor did Tribune have plaintiff’s permission or consent to publish the photograph on its website.”  Of note, Polaris previously brought a nearly identical lawsuit against Boston Globe back in July 2018, involving use of the exact same photograph.

Something to watch for will be whether a similar case involving Tom Brady is used as precedent in favor of Polaris in these lawsuits.  There, a photographer uploaded a photo of Tom Brady to Snapchat; afterwards, several news outlets embedded social media posts utilizing the same photo.  The defendants in that case were ultimately found liable in spite of their arguing that such a finding would “cause a tremendous chilling effect on the core functionality of the web” – it begs the question of whether Tribune may feel that decision’s impact sooner rather than later.

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