Viacom is being sued for copyright infringement in California federal court for using a photograph of Demi Moore on VH1’s website, a popular site averaging approximately 2 million views a month.  According to the complaint, VH1’s site generates revenue through advertisements devoted to music and popular culture.  The Plaintiff, Los Angeles-based National Photo Group (“NPG”), provides entertainment-related photojournalism.  NPG claims that Viacom copied, modified, and displayed NPG’s celebrity photographs on the VH1 website knowingly and without authorization.  As a result, NPG claims one count of copyright infringement and seeks statutory damages of $150,000 per infringement, or an amount equal to NPG’s actual damages and the wrongful profits reaped by Viacom plus attorney’s fees.

VH1’s post, titled “Welcome Back, Demi Moore, Now Please Stay Away from Ashton” has been taken down from the site.  However, a Google cache of the post reveals that VH1 borrowed the photo from a prior TMZ article regarding Moore’s release from a medical treatment facility.  While VH1 supposedly credits TMZ in the post, NPG objects to the photo of Moore used by VH1 that displayed the TMZ watermark.

The case is National Photo Group LLC v. Viacom International Inc. et al., case number 2:12-cv-07125, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.