Hacked celebs may file lawsuit against Google for profiting from photo leak


About a month has passed since the Labor Day weekend release of stolen photos of dozens of female celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and Krysten Ritter. No matter how many sites refused to post the photos, plenty of other sites chose to do so. The FBI got involved in the case that will be ongoing for some time. Apple tried to wash its hands of the controversy even though it was clear that iCloud contained massive holes.

Even with the patches and security updates that Apple rushed out, there are still flaws in the system. A second wave of photos surfaced (including Rihanna, Cara Delevingne and many more), and a third one followed. Most of these photos were stolen around the same time as the first batch, but Apple still needs to focus on closing gaps. We heard that several celebs, including JLaw and Upton, vowed to pursue all available remedies afforded by the law. Part of that plan may include suing Google.

Page Six received a letter that was sent to Google by several of the hacked celebs. Petitioner names have not been revealed. This letter threatens Google with a lawsuit for its role in the dissemination of the stolen pics. The law firm handling the suit sent Cease & Desist letters over several Blogspot sites that posted the photos. The pictures are still available on these sites, which suggests that Google ignored the letters:

Lawyers for the female celebrities whose nude or private images were hacked are threatening to sue Google for $100 million for allegedly failing to remove the images and “making millions from the victimization of women.”

Images of stars including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Amber Heard, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez and Cara Delevingne have been distributed online in what is said to be the biggest celebrity hacking scandal in history.

Now top Hollywood lawyer Marty Singer, who represents over a dozen of the women affected by the leak, has written a sternly worded letter to Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as Eric Schmidt and Google lawyers, accusing them of “blatantly unethical behavior” — and comparing their alleged lack of action to the NFL leadership’s handling of the Ray Rice affair.

The letter, exclusively seen by Page Six, claims Google has failed “to act expeditiously, and responsibly to remove the images, but in knowingly accommodating, facilitating, and perpetuating the unlawful conduct. Google is making millions and profiting from the victimization of women.”

Singer writes that Lavely & Singer sent a notice to remove images four weeks ago, and a dozen more since, but many of the images are still on Google sites BlogSpot and YouTube.

Singer adds, “Google knows the images are hacked stolen property, private and confidential photos and videos unlawfully obtained and posted by pervert predators who are violating the victims’ privacy rights … Yet Google has taken little or no action to stop these outrageous violations.”

The letter continues, “Because the victims are celebrities with valuable publicity rights you do nothing — nothing but collect millions of dollars in advertising revenue … as you seek to capitalize on this scandal rather than quash it. Like the NFL, which turned a blind eye while its players assaulted and victimized women and children, Google has turned a blind eye while its sites repeatedly exploit and victimize these women.”

[From Page Six]

This potential lawsuit sounds terribly messy. If a suit goes forth, then legal precedent will be made by the verdict. I was tempted to say that it’s impossible for Google to police all Blogspot sites to see whether these photos have been posted. It’s tricky though. If the C&Ds pointed towards specific sites, and Google hasn’t lifted a finger, then they’re inviting a lawsuit.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this lawsuit threat. Stay tuned.

Jennifer Lawrence

cara delevingne

Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet & WENN

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26 Responses to “Hacked celebs may file lawsuit against Google for profiting from photo leak”

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  1. don't kill me i'm french says:

    Why to sue Google whereas Google is not Internet?

    • cr says:

      Because Google owns sites that posted the pics, they were asked to shut them down/have the photos removed, and didn’t.

      ETA: I’ll add that I have no idea whether the lawsuits will have any chance, or whether they’ll add other companies to the suit, say Apple.

      • don't kill me i'm french says:

        Why don’t sue Reddit or other platforms who continue to show the leaked pics? Why only Google and not Firefox,internet explorer& other navigators?

      • cr says:

        Why sue Google and not Reddit or 4Chan or whatever? Have to ask their lawyer. And it’s not the browser/search engine issue, they’re going after blogspot sites, Google owns blogspot.

    • Kiddo says:

      Good point. And why not sue the US government who have made backdoor hacking easier for nefarious purposes, through the NSA program?

      I don’t think either of the suits, the one that has been embarked upon, or the one that I proposed, would be successful, but at least they would make a very public point about loss of privacy and the causes thereof.

    • Tapioca says:

      Why sue Google, who are no more responsible for the misuse of their product than Jeffrey Dahmer’s local knife manufacturer, when they have the ability to remove your name from ALL searches? That seems a risky thing to do when you’re desperately trying to remain famous, especially given that so many of the hacking victims are easily-replaceable B and C-list slebs.

      I expect this case to fail, with maybe a couple of the less obvious names behind the lawsuit finding they no longer exist in cyberspace, just as a warning to anyone wishing to mess with one of the most powerful entities on the WWW.

      Because major corporations don’t get where they are by not being evil.

      • Kiddo says:

        I think it’s that they let the images remain not that the service was used. I guess it would be like knowing Dahmer used the knife, and letting him keep on using it. I’m not saying that they will be successful.

    • Poopsicle says:

      How about… don’t take nude photos of yourself. Will these bitches ever learn from one another?

  2. Cara says:

    Trust me, Google keeps track of plenty. My sis in law has a cooking blog, and people (that she didn’t know at all) were clicking on her ads a lot. They kicked her off blogspot, and she is now on another site. They have programs that monitor traffic, and the search terms used. They could easily track down a major portion of the photos.

    • Kiddo says:

      Probably multiple layers of proxies were used, by multiple people, so maybe not ‘easily’, but eventually.

  3. Sixer says:

    This is linked to the Right to be Forgotten EU ruling, where Google has been forced to scrub showing links to content in its search results at the request of individuals. Too long to explain but Wiki has an article on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_be_forgotten.

    Google are very unhappy about it (I don’t like it either, predictably enough) and apparently has been swamped with frivolous requests for deletions.

    We all know these leaks were awful. But you guys stateside don’t want to go down the EU route – even in individual cases like this which will still set precedents. All sorts of unintended and unbeneficial consequences.

    • Kiddo says:

      That’s a mixed bag. I think news items shouldn’t be scrubbed, because that is a ‘public’ record of history to begin with. But with private info, like unlisted numbers, residential addresses and photos of houses, for example, there is too much data mining on the average person that is collected, and that is very harmful. The US is different than the EU because it doesn’t care what the average citizenry desires, policies are driven for corporate interest.

    • Sixer says:

      Yep. Tricky one. In theory, it all sounds super. But in practice, it’ll be like your (US) and our (Prince William the Idiot) issue with the celebs and the kiddies and the paps. The rich people will keep what they want and block access to anything they don’t.

      This information flow shenanigans is ALWAYS a case of frying pans and fires, ain’t it?

      • Kiddo says:

        Well, at least the EU is acting on something. The US talks about it and talks about it and then either forgets about it, doubles down on it, or makes new policy, with humungous loopholes whereby the end result becomes more harmful from the starting point*.

        * I’m thinking about changes to banking and credit cards which seems to have resulted in MUCH higher fees, but YAY!? now it’s clearly in writing so no harm/no foul.

      • Sixer says:

        I think it’s a difference in outlook, to be honest. The EU and Europeans generally are all about the body politic. The US is all about individuality. So we get well-meaning rules that have unfortunate side effects discombobulating many of us. You get administrations that put their fingers in their ears and sing la-la-la while individual examples become mahousive news.

        I honestly think the world is all about big data and information flow now. The changes are so huge already and will only grow – the challenge is how to adjust and govern. We are in the guinea pig generation and I do wonder what the world will look like fifty years from now.

    • Sara says:

      ah didnt see your post before i posted mine.

      it really sounds good but isnt in reality.

      as a society we certainly need to stop thinking that anything and everything must be free to access on the internet. privacy needs to be protected. but not politicans from critical reporting. or big companies deleting bad reviews.

      we’ll need to find a way between anything goes and everything locked up.

  4. jwoolman says:

    You have to notify Google of illegal postings before they can do anything about it. They do remove such posts from the search hits (I’ve run into their little standard thing at the bottom of the page explaining something is removed and citing the legal reference), such as illegal uploads of tv show episodes, but they have to be notified first. It would be a terrible precedent if such a lawsuit is allowed to go forward.

  5. Zapp Brannigan says:

    Is copyright also an issue in this? While some of the photos were selfies not all were. So copyright would have to be established and then the legal owner of those pics would have to sue, no?

    Just feel awful for all the people violated by these hackers.

  6. Lucy2 says:

    I know someone who had to deal with Google to have a copyrighted image removed from other sites. It usually took them a few days but they always took care of it.
    If they aren’t doing anything here then I can see a lawsuit going forward, but it may just be the sheer volume of sites to be addressed.

  7. AlwaysConfused says:

    This case will go nowhere. They may have a shot in a European court, but various laws here give websites immunity. I suppose they could claim some violation of the DMCA, or maybe even use California’s new “revenge porn” law some way, but case law is NOT on their side.

    • Jadzia says:

      Not true. Google can be liable for secondary infringement if it declines to act on a DMCA takedown notice and an image is later found to be infringing. That’s the whole point of the DMCA–companies like Google do get safe harbor if they take down in response to a DMCA notice, but that safe harbor is not unlimited if Google (or whoever) decides not to comply.

  8. Lucy says:

    Completely of topic but good god Rihanna is gorgeous

  9. Sally says:

    What about non famous women ? Thousands of women’s photos are online without. Their permission

  10. Sara says:

    they should sue the sites that posted them. if some of them belong to Google, fine. if its as often is only about search results, then no. in that sense google is also profiting from war because people search about wars via google. thats the nature of a web search service.

    in europe there is a new law that sounds fantastic at first glance. you can appeal to google to delete certain sites that show up when someone googles your name. t here is a lot of defamtion going on and cyber bullying, so its sounds good. in reality now a lot of polticians are deleting critical articles about their wrong doings.

    i hope this doesnt lead to that. Google as a web search is not responsible for that. the sites hosting the images are. if they wouldnt host them there would be nothing to be found via google.

  11. CK says:

    Yeah, this is going to be terribly messy. Can you picture Celebrities going up against Google, which owns youtube, and whose search algorithms are responsible for a majority of the traffic that the mention of their name gets? I expect this to just be a slaughter. In the realm of the internet, Google can and will be a dick. The only leg that the Celebrities have in this fight is public sentiment. Google can feign lack of resources/copyright oversight when it comes to C&Ds because Artists and their teams have built up such a history of trying to get things taken down (Beyonce and her SB poses) that Google can claim an automated system is out of the question, thus requiring someone to actually look at the claim and verify the validity of it. And given the nature of the internet, sites can just pop up/post images in minutes. I’m waiting for Google to bite back now. This is like the Gay Techie Olympics for me.