A British photographer has filed a copyright infringement suit against Donald Trump’s campaign in the Northern District of Illinois, after a controversial tweet from the son of the presidential candidate utilized his photograph.
David Kittos alleged that Trump’s campaign used his copyrighted photograph of a bowl of Skittles, without authorization, as part of a meme targeting Syrian refugees.
The complaint, filed on October 18, describes the tweet from Donald Trump, Jr. The September 19th tweet featured the photograph along with text reading: “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. [sic] Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” The text included the Trump/Pence logo and campaign slogan “Make America Great Again!” at the bottom.
Kittos, who moved to the United Kingdom as a child refugee from Cyprus, named Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence, and other members of the Trump campaign in the complaint, claiming violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Kittos photographed the Skittles bowl in 2010, titling the image “White Bowl of Candy” and posting it to his personal Flickr account with all rights reserved. Citing the compositional specifics and lighting innovation of his image, Kittos’ complaint argues for the unique quality of the photograph. Kittos formally registered for copyright protection for his Skittles photo on October 3, according to the U.S. Copyright Office.
The meme has weathered significant controversy apart from Kittos’ lawsuit. Wrigley, the company that owns Skittles, responded via Twitter to condemn the use of the image and its message. The image remained on Trump, Jr.’s account until removed by Twitter on September 27. The Trump campaign has not yet commented on the lawsuit nor responded to the complaint.
Mike Moffitt, “Trump Campaign Sued Over Skittles Pic Tweeted By Son,” SFGate (San Francisco Chronicle) (Oct. 19, 2016, 11:55 AM), http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Trump-campaign-sued-over-Skittles-pic-tweeted-by-9983829.php.
Mitchell Armentrout, “Trump Sued In Chicago Over Use Of Copyrighted Skittles Photo,” Chicago Sun-Times (Oct. 19, 2016, 7:20 PM), http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/trump-sued-in-chicago-over-use-of-copyrighted-skittles-photo/.
Patrick Evans, “Donald Trump, Jr. Tweet: ‘I’m A Refugee’ Says Skittles Photographer,” BBC News (Sep. 20, 2016), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-37421886?ocid=socialflow_twitter.
Robert Channick, “Photographer, A Former Refugee, Sues Trump In Chicago Over Skittles Tweet,” Chicago Tribune (Oct. 20, 2016, 2:10 PM), http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-trump-skittles-lawsuit-1021-biz-20161020-story.html.
“Trump Sued In Chicago Over Use Of Copyrighted Skittles Photo,” NBC Chicago (Oct. 19, 2016, 7:35 PM), http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/trump-skittles-lawsuit-chicago-397681731.html.