Netflix sued for defamation over wrongfully used photo in new documentary

Despite having no connection to the doc, a man's photo was pulled from Instagram and included

Netflix is being sued for defamation and misappropriation of likeness or right of publicity by Taylor Hazlewood after his photo was used in a new true-crime documentary without his consent.

The 2023 documentary The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker featured a photo of Hazlewood alongside a convicted murderer with the text “you can never trust anyone” and audio playing behind the photos, saying “stone-cold killer.” Hazlewood claims that the photos were taken from his Instagram page without his knowledge or consent.

The new documentary revolves around Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, the center of a viral internet video back in 2013. Dubbed “the homeless hitchhiker with a hatchet,” McGillvary gained public interest after he rescued a woman by killing her assaulter with a hatchet before describing the incident to KMPH-TV News. He was later convicted for the murder of an attorney in an unrelated incident.

Hazlewood began to receive messages from friends after an Instagram picture of him holding a hatchet surfaced in the film. Near the end of the documentary, his photo appears with the narrator asking “Is this a guardian angel or a stone-cold killer?” following a description of McGillvary’s murder.

As a result of the incident, Hazlewood says he has suffered stress, anxiety and reputational harm. This has led to the man suing the streaming service in Texas state court, where he looks for over $1 million and punitive damages.

This begs the question, was it a slip-up from the company or did Netflix really pull any images they could find of people posing with hatchets? According to Hazlewood, it was no mistake.

“The use was not incidental. Instead, it was Netflix’s employees’ negligently searching for images of people holding hatchets to support their narrative.”

Netflix was the centre of more controversy last month, where they managed to escape another defamation lawsuit over accusing a retired police officer of planting evidence in the documentary Making a Murderer.

Netflix has yet to issue a statement on both the initial incident as well as the lawsuit.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter