How newlyweds sought to ruin their photographer's career
If you can’t say anything nice, certainly don’t post it on the internet. That was the $1.08 million mistake made by newly-weds Neely and Andrew Moldovan.
So, what happened? Blogger Neely and, her now husband, Andrew Moldovan hired esteemed photographer Andrea Polito to shoot their wedding. Everything was great. The cake was probably a bit dry, but it always is. I digress. The problem ensued (pun intended) after the wedding when our bride and groom were waiting to receive the photos from the big day. The problem is that they weren’t getting the photos.
As per a contract that the couple signed with Andrea Polito Photography, the photos would not be released until the couple completed the album, which required them to select a cover photo and submit an order form. Standard stuff. The cover photo was set at an additional $125. Though the couple had already signed the contract, they still contested the $125 and began a series of frustrated emails back and forth. Eventually, Polito decided to absorb the $125 cover fee that was stated in the contract in order to keep her clients happy. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.
After Polito had sent the email saying that she would cover the cover photo cost, she found out that our happy newly-weds had contacted local news stations, telling them that Polito was “holding their photos hostage.” They continued. They began writing yelp reviews and Facebook posts and blog posts all about how horrible Polito was and they even liked a post that said that Polito gave someone AIDS. The whole thing was less than Kosher. According to Polito, her business that had previously been thriving crashed and burned overnight.
Naturally, she sued Neely and Andrew for defamation and she won. The jury awarded Polito with $1.08 million in damages. The moral of the story is that there are real-life consequences to things that are posted on the internet. While the freedom of speech allows people to say or to write what they want, this privilege does not bar them unjustly inflicting serious damages.
Jon Pfeiffer is an experienced entertainment and copyright trial attorney practicing in Santa Monica. Jon is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California where he teaches Media Law. COM 570 covers First Amendment issues as well as copyright, defamation and privacy.