A U.S. district court judge has sided with TMZ and its parent company Warner Bros. in a lawsuit filed by Jared Leto after the tabloid site leaked video of the actor-singer criticizing Taylor Swift.
In Leto’s copyright infringement lawsuit, which came after a videographer sold the video to TMZ, the actor claimed that the website had “acquired personal and private video footage of me in my home.” “Let’s be clear. This was stolen footage. This was an invasion of privacy. And it was both morally and legally wrong,” Leto said in a December 2015 statement.
However, on Friday, the judge disagreed with Leto’s assessment and claim of ownership, arguing that the leaked footage in question never actually belonged to Leto, since it was licensed out to the videographer, who sold the footage to TMZ for $ 2,000.
In the leaked video, Leto and a studio engineer are seen listening to Taylor Swift’s 1989. After initially complementing the music and joking that he wanted to “steal” some of her work, the Thirty Seconds to Mars singer says of Swift, “I mean, fuck her. I don’t give a fuck about her.”
After Leto filed his lawsuit against TMZ, the website took separate legal action against the videographer – Naeem Munaf, who sold the video under the pseudonym Jake Miller – alleging that he misled them regarding the ownership of the video in question.
In his summary judgment Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lew wrote that since there was no written proof that Munaf’s footage belonged to Leto, and because Munaf was not a for-hire employee of Leto’s, it was within the videographer’s right to sell it to TMZ, The Hollywood Reporter writes.
“Munaf used his own equipment and no one but Munaf operated his equipment during the video shoot,” the judge’s order stated. “Plaintiff [Leto] did not give Munaf any documents prior to the shoot indicating that the work would be a work made for hire. Munaf did not sign any agreements prior to the shoot indicating that the work would be a work made for hire.”
The summary also determined that Munaf transferred copyright ownership to TMZ in a December 4th email, even though the videographer made a last-ditch effort to reclaim the footage prior to its publication after questioning his own ownership of the footage. Five days later, Leto filed his lawsuit against TMZ.