A US photographer has sued actress, Hilary Duff, for defamation after she called him a ‘creep’, with ‘innuendo he was a child predator’, after she confronted him for photographing a children’s football match.
Duff video recorded a 1:25-minute confrontation with photographer, Darryl Wilkins, and posted it to social media on February 23, 2020. In the video Wilkins is asked to stop taking pictures of the seven-year old children playing football given he didn’t know anyone there and was making her feel uncomfortable.
‘But it’s legal,’ Wilkins responded, who then offers to show Duff his ID. ‘I’m not asking for your ID,’ she said. ‘I’m asking for you to stop taking pictures of our seven-year old children if you don’t know anyone that’s here.’
Wilkins reiterates it’s legal, Duff again asks him to stop taking pictures, and the photographer explains he’s practising photography and isn’t there to scare anyone. Duff responds there is an ‘uncomfort-ability factor’ about a man photographing a children’s football game when he doesn’t know anyone there. She then states the parents want to protect their children, and when the photographer continues to argue Duff tells him she will post it ‘to my 15 million followers on Instagram to let people know how creepy it is that this is what you’re choosing to do on your Saturday morning’. Watch below.
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And post it to her 15 million followers is what Duff did, with the caption: ‘Paparazzi shooting KIDS. Go ‘practice’ your photography on ADULTS! Creep! Laws need to change! This is stalking minors! Disgusting!’
Plenty of celebrities chimed in supporting Duff including actress, Busy Philipps, who said ‘THIS IS INFURIATING’.
‘This isn’t about his job or his “rights”,’ she said. ‘This is about his OWN perceived POWER over others. I imagine it’s the only time this pathetic person feels any power in his life. I know it’s illegal for an adult not with a child to be inside a playground – how is taking pictures of children without parental consent legal?!??”
American talk show host, Wendy Williams, then played Duff’s clip on her show, The Wendy Williams Show, stating ‘creepy to me’ and ‘Sir, if you’re practising photography, why wouldn’t you go into a park and take pictures of birds and butterflies?’
Wilkins didn’t appreciate being called a ‘creep’, and having the confrontation broadcast to millions of people with commentary he alleges infers he was a child predator. The lawsuit, according to celebrity online gossip rag, The Blast, accuses Duff and Williams of libel, which is written defamation, and slander, oral or spoken defamation.
The photographer claims the actresses accused him of ‘reprehensible and despicable conduct including by innuendo that he was a child predator’, but these are ‘false statements’.
‘Wilkins is not a pedophile or child predator and was attempting to take photographs as a photographer and not as a paparazzi or stalker or with mal (sic) intent or evil wrongdoing,’ the lawsuit states.
The Wendy Williams Show YouTube channel has since set a clip of the alleged defamation to private.
Many innocent photographers have had unpleasant experiences with people passing judgement about their wrongful intentions when shooting in public. Especially when ‘helicopter parents’ believe a photographer with a big lens is somehow a threat to their children.
As Wilkins points out, it’s not illegal to take photos of anyone in public, including children. This also applies in Australia. However there are ethical issues involved when photographing someone, and exercising discretion in some circumstances may be sensible. Posting images online – which Wilkins did not do – opens up another set of issues.
In 2018 Dr Hugh Breakey, president of the Australian Association for Professional and Applied Ethics, told the ABC that issues are heightened when it comes to publishing images.
‘…If you take a photo of your kid and it’s at a sports day and there’s a bunch of other kids there and you just name your kid and the high school they go to, is that making the other kids in that potentially identifiable?
‘Next step on is mentioning, “Here’s my kid and his friend playing and she came second” and that becomes the next step on.
‘As well as all ethical issues to do with copyright, privacy, and private property and so on, you’ve got different decision nodes you can work your way through … whereas taking a photo might be OK, putting it online might be OK, but the way you frame it and the way you provide information about it might be the thing that gets people to say, ‘Hang on, now I feel like I’ve been wronged here in what you’ve done’.