Netflix is facing a $1 million defamation lawsuit for using a Kentucky man’s Instagram photo in its “Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker” documentary.
Taylor Hazlewood, a respiratory therapist in a neonatal ICU, alleged in a lawsuit filed in Dallas County, Texas on April 10 that Netflix used an Instagram photo of him without his consent in the doc. Released in January, “The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker” details Caleb “Kai” McGillvary’s rise to internet fame after defending a woman from an attack with his hatchet while hitchhiking, and his subsequent fall after he was convicted of murdering New Jersey attorney Joseph Galfy.
According to the suit, obtained by Variety, photos of Hazlewood holding a hatchet were allegedly “extracted from his personal Instagram page without his permission, are placed with audio stating ‘stone-cold killer,’ with text captions stating that ‘you can never trust anyone,’ and with pictures of Caleb Lawrence McGillvary.”
The filing states that Hazlewood took a photo with his friend’s hatchet in June 2019 because it reminded him of “his favorite childhood book,” Gary Paulsen’s “Hatchet.” He then posted it on his Instagram with the caption “Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.” Hazlewood alleges that Netflix “misappropriated” the photo by using it twice in the documentary next to photos of McGillvary.
Hazlewood is seeking $1 million in damages from Netflix, citing that the incident has “caused him reputational harm, stress, anxiety and anguish” and has resulted in “a constant fear of losing future employment or relationships because of people believing he is dangerous or untrustworthy.”
“Mr. Hazelwood was never contacted, at all, by Netflix or any person involved with the making of the film, regarding the original context of his photograph or their planned use of his photograph,” Hazlewood’s attorney, Angela Buchanan, said in a statement to Variety. “Because of the lack of due diligence on the part of those who took and used Mr. Hazelwood’s photograph and cast him side-by-side with a convicted murder, Mr. Hazelwood has a constant fear regarding the impact the film will have on his personal relationships, his employment and his reputation in general.”
Netflix had no comment on the lawsuit.
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