A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: The Celebrity Photo Hack

Over Labor Day Weekend 2014, hundreds of private pictures, many nude, of over 100 celebrities were released on the websites 4chan and Reddit. The pictures were apparently obtained via a hack of the Apple iCloud service, which allows users to backup data stored on their iPhones and other devices remotely. Cloud computing, which continues to gain increased popularity, involves the storing of data on the remote hardware of another party. The data on this hardware, which can be thousands of miles away, is then accessed using an Internet connection. Some benefits of the cloud include the ability to have access to that data from any device, as long as it has an Internet connection, and the fact that the data is stored externally so that stress is not put on the user’s actual device.

So how did the photo hack happen? Initially, many thought the hack was from a vulnerability in Apple’s security infrastructure. After a lengthy investigation, Apple learned that the hack happened through a targeted attack on specific individuals involving a phishing scam and the compromising of user names, passwords, and security questions. While Apple does have two-factor authentication options available, they will be broadening its use across their product line and encouraging users to use this tool. Apple’s two-factor authentication system involves use of two of three factors to gain access to an account. These three factors are a password, a four digit code sent to the user for one-time use or a long access key that is given to the user when they sign up for iCloud.  Apple will also change their notification system, sending a user an email and push notification when someone logs into an account for the first time from a new device, tries to restore iCloud data to a new device and when a password is reset.

Different celebrities have had different reactions to the release of the photos. An attorney for Jennifer Lawrence stated that the whole situation is a “flagrant violation of privacy,” that they have contacted the proper authorities and that they will prosecute anyone who publishes the images. An attorney for model and actress Kate Upton echoed a similar statement.

Besides the violation of the right to privacy, including misappropriation of name or likeness, the celebrity photo hack has also brought up issues of copyright violation. Since the release of the photos, the website 4chan, where the photos were first posted, has implemented a takedown notice policy to become compliant with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) so it can fall under the “safe harbor” provisions of the U.S. Copyright Code. Another copyright issue that has arisen is the refusal by a pornography website to take down certain images because the website argues the actor requesting to take down the images is not the copyright owner. The site argues that since the images are not “selfies,” it is the unnamed photographer who holds the copyright ownership to the images.

As the world continues to become more digital, technology can be one’s best friend, and at the same time, one’s worst enemy.

Bradley Legal Group, P.A. are Intellectual Property lawyers, Entertainment lawyers and Music lawyers servicing clients in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Nashville. We also affiliate with entertainment lawyers licensed in California,New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. © 2014 Bradley Legal Group, P.A