Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Wait, so who owns the rights to Ellen’s selfie?

This image released by Ellen DeGeneres shows actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyong’o Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong’o and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a "selfie" portrait on a cellphone during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 2, 2014, in Los Angeles.

Bradley Cooper/AP

Take heed, Ellen DeGeneres: If you have any further plans for that adorable selfie you snapped while hosting the Oscars on Sunday night, you had better clear them first with the photograph's real owner – Bradley Cooper.

TMZ helpfully points out that DeGeneres is not the official owner of the now-famous picture that "broke Twitter" (or at least broke the record for most retweets) and that unless he signed the rights away, Cooper is the rightful owner of the photo.

To boil down tons of legalese into simple terms: The person who takes a photo is legally the owner; the person who owns the camera or organized the shoot is not the owner.

Story continues below advertisement

And since Cooper's long arms made him designated lensman of the snap that included Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts and other celebrities (except Liza Minnelli, who tried desperately to get into the shot but couldn't), all rights to the picture belong to him.

In fact, even if DeGeneres was planning ahead and signed her rights over to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts of Sciences before she inked her hosting gig, the Academy would have no legal claim to the photo, because she can't legally transfer what isn't hers.

All that said, unless Cooper signed his rights away to the Academy, and so far there's been no mention of that, he's the copyright owner of the selfie that has so far been retweeted more than three-million times.

Which means that any unauthorized use of the picture without Cooper's permission is a violation of copyright law.

None of which appears to be an issue yet. Cooper appeared fine with tweeting the photo out on the night of the Oscars and seemed amiable enough at an Oscar after-party (despite losing the best supporting actor award to Jared Leto).

But moving forward, any use or reproduction of the picture on TV programs – including DeGeneres's own daytime talker – can only take place with Cooper's blessing.

On a broader scale, the fact that the selfie broke a Twitter record and garnered massive media attention virtually guarantees that next year's Oscars host will attempt the same stunt.

Story continues below advertisement

And you just know the Hollywood legal eagles are going to be prepared for the next time.

Report an error Licensing Options
Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.