Photographer Sues Miley Cyrus for Copyright Infringement

On Friday, September 9, 2022, photographer Robert Barbera sued Miley Cyrus in federal court for copyright infringement related to Cyrus posting one of Barbera’s copyrighted photos to her Instagram account.

Barbera filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California. Barbera took a photo of Cyrus exiting a building and waving to onlookers on February 13, 2020. The photo was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office on April 11, 2020. Cyrus posted the photo to her Instagram account on February 13, 2020. Barbera first noticed the photo on Cyrus’s Instagram account on May 10, 2020. The complaint alleges that “[w]ithout permission or authorization from [Barbera], [Cyrus] volitionally selected, copied, stored and/or displayed [Barbera]’s copyright protected Photograph.” The complaint goes on to state that Cyrus received a financial benefit directly attributable to the alleged infringement because the photo increased traffic to Cyrus’s account, thus increasing the revenues generated via the sale of Cyrus’s musical works or her other business partnerships and/or venues.

Cyrus’s Instagram account has over 169 million followers. The complaint states that because of the widespread reach of Cyrus’s account, the unauthorized use of Barbera’s photo “has crippled if not destroyed the potentiality of any market for the Photograph by [Barbera].” Barbera has previously sued Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and Dua Lipa for posting his photos to their respective Instagram accounts. While Barbera’s lawsuits with Grande and Bieber have been settled on confidential terms, Dua Lipa’s lawsuit is still pending. Other celebrities, like LeBron James, Katy Perry, and Emily Ratajkowski, have also faced similar lawsuits.

The complaint states a cause of action for direct copyright infringement, citing 17 U.S.C. ยง 501. The complaint requests relief in the form of a finding that Cyrus infringed Barbera’s copyright interest, “an award of actual damages and disgorgement of all of [Cyrus]’s profits attributable to the infringement,” an order enjoining Cyrus from any further infringement of Barbera’s photo, costs and fees, and pre judgment interest.

Additional Reading

Miley Cyrus Sued For Posting Paparazzi Photo of Herself to Instagram, Billboard (September 12, 2022)

Robert Barbera v. Miley Ray Cyrus (Case No. 2:2022cv06449)

Complaint in Barbera v. Cyrus

Photo Credit: Debby Wong /