"The case involves free speech-related issues under United Kingdom law and, unfortunately, has proven to be too unbearably expensive for Splash to continue its defense," the president of the agency said
A major paparazzi agency, Splash News & Picture Agency, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The global pandemic is partly to blame, but other reasons include the various times it tried to sue celebrities for posting copyrighted images of themselves and for acting as a defendant in a privacy action brought by Meghan Markle, Hollywood Reporter explained.
Splash admitted to having difficulty navigating the financial situation and revealed that it has defaulted on a loan now worth nearly $1 million and is seeking the protection of a Nevada bankruptcy court. "Splash’s financial problems stem from three sources. As a consequence of the global pandemic, the availability of celebrity images has declined and budgets within media companies have been cut to reflect wider macro-economic challenges. This situation has been exacerbated by two ongoing litigation cases and the costs of defending these cases," said Splash president Emma Curzon in a declaration submitted as part of the bankruptcy. One of the two cases is Splash's battle with Markle over photos taking during a "private family outing" in a park in Canada. While the BBC and other press outlets had reported that it was settled in December, the case may not be fully resolved. "The case involves free speech-related issues under United Kingdom law and, unfortunately, has proven to be too unbearably expensive for Splash to continue its defense. Furthermore, if the plaintiffs were to prevail in that case it would likely result in a large attorney fee award against Splash. Notwithstanding the merits of the case the company has sought to settle this matter but has been unable to agree [on] a financial settlement within its resources," said Curzon, according to Hollywood Reporter.
As Splash fought for free speech with Markle, it had also pursued many celebrities in court. The agency was at the forefront of taking action against celebrities for posting images of themselves. One NFL star went on to even claim that it was extortion. Others who have been on the defending side of a copyright case versus Splash include Jessica Simpson, Liam Hemsworth, Jennifer Lopez, and Nicki Minaj. According to bankruptcy papers, copyright infringements brought in a little more than $118,000 in 2020 but just $21,000 last year. That was nowhere close to covering expenses, especially in light of the pandemic and the two suits. "Attorney bills have drained, and continue to drain, cash from the business," Curzon said, according to Hollywood Reporter.