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New York Gay Couple Distraught Over Linda Ikeji’s Unauthorized Use of Photos: The Gay Marriage That Broke the Internet

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A New York gay couple, a Nigerian “husband” David Umukoro Ukre from Delta State and an American “husband,” photographer Eric Shoen, are telling the American media they are very distraught over the unauthorized use of their wedding pictures by Linda Ikeji, a Nigerian celebrity gossip blogger, on her blog.

According to the couple, they had a small wedding on July 30, 2016 but Ukre was yet to “come out of the closet” to his Nigerian family. Nevertheless, they placed some of their wedding pictures on Shoen’s Facebook page and were shocked to discover that Ikeji had shared the images on her blog.

Ikeji’s blog, per website monitoring services, allegedly averages over 22 million page views per day and is ranked 48 on Alexa. They argue that they are not public figures, and are unsure if Ikeji was sharing their images in support of gay marriage, but they never authorized it. Ikeji has since responded saying she posted their images because she was in fact in support of gay marriage.

While Ikeji does showcase all kinds of gay stories on her blog, and extends into transgender, and transsexual stories, I doubt her motive was in “support” of gay marriage. This is because Ikeji’s pattern and practice, if you have followed the blog for as long as I have, is to share sensational stories that ensure huge traffic, and generate equally large amount of comments. Therefore, again, I doubt very much it had anything to do with her alleged support of/for gay marriage but everything to do with how sensational the story would be for her audience.

Ikeji’s largely Nigerian audience still views gay sexual relations as an abominable act, and in fact persons caught engaged in homosexual acts or relations are subject to a fourteen year prison sentence, when convicted.

The couple claim as a result of Ikeji’s action, they sought legal counsel from some of their lawyer friends, and even reached out to their friends who work at Google. However, they were informed that due to Ikeji residing in Nigeria, there was nothing they could do to seek legal action/remedy against her.

What’s my take? AML people, there are a couple of issues here to note. I will hit them real quick since I have discussed them countless times over the years.

  1. Jurisdiction: Assuming there was in fact a legal claim to pursue, a key question would be, “where do you file the lawsuit?” The couple can only file any claim they may have in the U.S. since Nigerian law does not recognize gay marriage and makes their underlying relationship a criminal offense.
  2. Right of Publicity: There is a ‘Right of publicity’ issue, which is a subset of ‘Right of privacy’ law. In a nutshell, the law says others cannot use your image, likeness, name etc. for commercial gain without your consent. The law is state specific and there are only a handful of states in the U.S. that have such rule. New York is one of them. Therefore, if they could sue in New York, that would be a claim they could potentially pursue. However, since Ikeji is based in Nigeria, her act occurred in Nigeria, albeit using an American owned server i.e. Google, there is in fact not much this couple can do, unless of course she visits New York within the time period they have to sue under the state’s right of publicity law.
  3. Right of Privacy: The couple raise an issue of privacy, especially since they argue they are not public figures. Newsflash folks, if you do not want your news stories or pictures you post on Facebook to be used publicly, it is your job and responsibility to use your Facebook settings to control what you choose to reveal to the public. When you sign up with Facebook or any other social media platform, these rules are made clear in their “Terms of Use” and “Privacy Policy.” You also grant these social media platforms a non-exclusive license to allow the image to be shared among other social media users, in this case Facebook. So, if you don’t want your new stories to be shared outside of Facebook or give others access, you need to restrict access to your page. It is also a good habit to indicate when you update your status that you do not want your images or stories shared. Otherwise, it is what it is and you can’t argue “privacy” when your actions are simply contrary. Also, I find it bizarre that Ukre had not come out to his family, yet he somehow believed having his wedding picture on Facebook, through his partner’s website, would not reach his family in Nigeria. That is very weird to me given the nature of social networks, and considering that when you tag a friend on Facebook, a “friend of a friend” can see that image or news stories.
  4. Copyright infringement: In cases like these, whether the subject happens to be gay or not, you are not limited to only a right of privacy (including your right of publicity where applicable) claim. You can certainly look at intellectual property (IP) laws as a possible option/claim. In this instance, the most appropriate IP law would be copyright law. The use of Ukre and Schoen’s images without compensation and/or attribution may potentially present an issue for Ikeji. Ikeji runs a blog that grosses over $1million U.S. dollars annually. If there is no proper attribution and/or compensation, perhaps there could be a viable claim. It all depends on the facts.  You should know that if there was an IP claim, Ikeji could be sued in a federal court in New York, and New York court would honor Nigerian IP law, given Nigeria is part of the Berne convention. The Berne convention enforces a requirement that countries recognize copyrights held by the citizens of all other signatory countries. Do note that there is a “fair use” limitation to the use of other people’s work.

Overall, I think the moral of the story is don’t post anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t be happy to see go viral. If you do and the facts are similar to the one in this case, then it might be a “too bad, so sad” reality for you.

By the way, for folks similarly situated like Ukre, if you have the audacity to go through a gay wedding and live your life in a western country that permits you to “love who you love” and you or your partner post it on social media, then you better tell your Nigerian family so they can at least be prepared for the harassment and assault. In my view, not doing so is somewhat selfish, given you know what they have to deal with, on your behalf, while you stay happily married in your free world. The least you can do is give them heads up, that is different from asking for their permission.

For Linda’s part, her success has come amidst numerous controversies and close legal calls, but still she rises including now expanding into a full fledged entertainment company that includes music, radio and television. Nevertheless, let’s see what the future holds.

AML Linda Ikeji Close Call Archived Cases (mostly alleged defamation claims)

  1. Five Star Music v. Linda Ikeji
  2. Funke Akindele v. Linda Ikeji
  3. Google v. Linda Ikeji (copyright infringement)
  4. Sugabelly v. Linda Ikeji (copyright infringement)
  5. 9ice v. Linda Ikeji
  6. Olamide v. Linda Ikeji
  7. Egor Efiok v. Linda Ikeji
  8. Yvonne Nelson v. Linda Ikeji
  9.  RMD v. Linda Ikeji
  10.  Toke Makinwa (via Toni Payne) v. Linda Ikeji
  11.  Jim Iyke v. Linda Ikeji
  12.  Eva Alordiah v. Linda Ikeji
  13.  Flavour’s Alleged Girlfriend Oyinye v. Linda Ikeji
  14.  Susan Peters v. Linda Ikeji
  15. Dencia v. Liz Garvy v. Linda Ikeji (right of privacy claim)
  16. Gossip Gone Too Far? Lawyer SUES Celebrity Blogger Linda Ikeji for N50 Million (right of privacy)

The Nigerian Gay Marriage that Broke the Internet

We tried very carefully to make sure this wouldn’t happen. Guests were instructed not to take photosduring the ceremony. We were very particular about who was invited. It was a sad added bonus that most of the guests from Nigeria cancelled just 24 hours before the ceremony.

On July 30, I married a Nigerian man. Although he is very special to me, he is not famous. He has never done anything to warrant so much media coverage. We had a small ceremony under the leaves of some great old trees on the lawn of an adorable little restaurant. My family and our closest friends joined us. Our vow exchange was only 30 minutes long.

What followed was a day of love, laughter, joy, eating, sore feet, kids running circles around the yard, and family and friends celebrating our day together. We posted only a few photos to our Facebookpages and asked guests to not post photos or mention our marriage.

That night, we went out dancing to a club with friends who stayed over. The next morning, we decided to take some friends with us on the first day of our honeymoon to see Niagara Falls. We were still enjoying every moment of calling each other husband, taking photos kissing in front of the falls, getting sprayed at the Cave of the Winds, and accepting well wishing texts from family and friends.

Monday morning, I woke up early to return the rental car that we had used for the weekend. When I returned, my husband was pacing and crying, distraught, pointing to his phone. Somehow, someone had either sold or given photos from our wedding and first dance to one of Nigeria’s notorious gossip bloggers, Linda Ikeji who chose to publish them on her blog. Whether to out David and make a mockery or to somehow use it as advocacy, no one knows. What we do know is that she had no permission from either of us to use our photos or story.

My husband calls me “the fixer” for a reason. I felt like I might be able to fix this before it got out of control.  I called my sister who is an attorney for advice. Given that the information was posted on an international site, there was little we could do. My friends at Google and Blog-spot, and attorneys who are friends of mine gave me the same unfortunate news. Mind you, this is all happening at 6:30 a.m. on a Monday morning. Friends from all over the USA messaged me as soon as I posted on my Facebook for some assistance.

I did contact the blogger directly via email and asked that the photos of our wedding, of our trip with my family, photos of our groomsmen, and direct quotes from my Facebook page be removed. I quickly locked down the security on my Facebook which had been relatively open so that I could use it for advertising and sales. I never heard back from her…

Huffington Post has the full story.

Cheers,

-Ms. Uduak

 

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Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
For legal representation inquiries, please email (uduak@ebitulawgrp.com). For blog related inquiries i.e. advertising, licensing, or guest interview requests, please email (africamusiclaw@gmail.com). Thank you for visiting Africa Music Law™.

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