So, last night @iampackratseemehoard brought to my attention the case of Arshakyan, et al. v. X17, Inc. In this case, four paparazzi are suing X17, a photo agency, requesting that the court determine whether they are employees or independent contractors under the law. (This is called a “declaratory judgment.”) The outcome of that question will determine whether the paps or the agency own the copyright to the photographs and what employment laws apply. The paps want to get what they deserve, whichever outcome: if they are independent contractors, they want ownership of the copyrights; if they are employees, they want X17 to provide them with the employment benefits to which they are entitled. (There are also some discrimination claims that are independent of the employee/independent contractor issue. They’re accusing someone at X17 of repeated discrimination through the use of racial slurs.) The complaint was just filed on June 16, 2016, so there is no answer yet from X17. In fact, the deadline for X17 to be served hasn’t even passed yet.
So, what does this have to do with One Direction? A complaint needs to lay out the basic allegations of what the plaintiffs argue the basis for their claims are. To do this, you have to explain who the parties are, why the court you filed in has jurisdiction and venue, and then the particular claims you’re suing on and basic facts that support those claims. To show that these paps took photos that X17 acquired and published, each pap attached as exhibits a set of photographs they took that they say are representative of the photographs at issue in the case. One of those paps, Roberto Maciel, attached a set of photos of Louis from last May. I don’t want to publish the pics here (because copyright is at the heart of the case), but those pics are from the night discussed in this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-3070019/Up-Night-Louis-Tomlinson-looks-bleary-eyed-hits-Los-Angeles-club-friends-partying.html. The DM used a different agency, so these aren’t the same pics, but they are from the same night based on Louis’ clothes, hair, etc. (None of the pics used as exhibits have Briana or Ashley in them, but trusty comfort goat Oli is in them.) The other pics used as exhibits are of Kim and Khloe Kardashian and Justin Bieber.
What does this mean, I can hear you still asking, other than that paps think Louis is in the same class as the Kardashians and Justin Bieber. Well, the primary issue of the legal question of whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor is that of control. How much control does the agency/employer have over the contractor/employee? The complaint is a bit thin on facts (in fact, I think there’s a good chance that X17 will file a motion to dismiss, which isn’t about substance so much as whether you met the standard for including everything needed in the complaint), but the facts that are alleged include claims that X17 made the paps work around the clock, without breaks, to get the pics they wanted. (Hence, the paps want to be paid overtime for that work, instead of just getting a set fee for the photos as independent contractors.) They allege this as evidence that X17 was controlling their work schedule and assignments, so they were employees, not independent contractors. For our purposes, though, this is further evidence that paps are sent to particular locations and particular times to get particular photos. It’s not organic. It’s not an independent pap just going where they think they might get the best shots and waiting around to see what they might get. Not usually at least. These paps are claiming that they are employees who are sent to fulfill certain tasks – including photos of Louis Tomlinson at a club on a night where he just so happened to leave with Briana Jungwirth.
Now, as I said, the complaint is thin on the facts. You have to draw this logic out from it; it’s not so clear on its face. But, this is the case they’re going to have to prove: that they were directed where to go and whom to shoot. And they’ve already provided these pics of Louis as examples of that. So, @iampackratseemehoard and I will keep an eye on the case to see if and when more details will emerge, especially as related to Louis’ pics. If there’s briefing for a motion to dismiss, that should be very interesting. Cases take time, so don’t expect anything new until August at least.