Industry News: Jaclyn Hill lawsuit

Monday, June 20, 2016

Credit: Jaclyn Hill
Social Media Personality Jaclyn Hill is being sued by former friend Mathew Chase Gilbert over what he alleges is copyright infringement and fraud. There's a lot of talk online both on YouTube and various social media sites discussing the situation with a lot of misinformation and gossip about the subject. So let me present the known facts of the case.

Before any Jaclyn Hill fans decide to bash me for this blog post please keep in mind I'm simply presenting the facts as known along with my personal opinion.

On Friday, June 17, 2016 it became known that Jaclyn Hill was being sued by her former friend Mathew Chase Gilbert. He is known in her circle of friends as Chase so I'll refer to him as that. This lawsuit, "COMPLAINT FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT", was filed in Florida Middle District Court on May 5, 2016 and was given case number 8:16-cv-01114. I will refer to this court filing as a "complaint".

According to the complaint filed, Chase first met Jaclyn at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. If the school sounds familiar to you it's because Michelle Phan also attended Ringling several years ago. Chase states that he had been friends with Jaclyn ever since and was such good friends that he was a member of her bridal party. Because he was good friends with her when she began to blog he created her logo.

Mathew designed and created a business logo using Jaclyn’s initials in an artistic and stylized manner, and incorporated the logo into branding slogans such as “Jaclyn Hill Cosmetics” and “Jaclyn Hill Professional Makeup Artist”

This logo is currently being used by Jaclyn on her social media sites including her website, Twitter account, Facebook account and YouTube channel.

Screenshots of Jaclyn Hill's social media sites

Chase also alleges in the complaint that he created the logo she uses not because she commissioned him to but because they were friends. When this logo was created he stated that he told her, "...that if her cosmetic business gained popularity and success, he hoped the logo and branding he designed could serve as publicity for his skills as a graphic designer, as well as a financial benefit in the form of unspecified payment and/or a position in Jaclyn’s future business." She in turn is alleged to have stated to him, "...if she became successful, there would be a place for him in her business designing and marketing."

Chase also states in his complaint that he helped facilitate an appearance at a TOPSHOP in the Nordstrom store that he worked at the time. He also states that as her popularity grew she continued to use the logo in paid advertisements. As time progressed, Chase alleges that at no time did Jaclyn keep her word to him and promote his work as her graphics artist.

Chase also alleges in his complaint that Jaclyn "exploited her friendship with Mathew and would often simply expect Mathew to modify his designs or help style her events without regular compensation or professional recognition." This included Chase designing a mock up for potential collaboration with Z Palette on Jaclyn's behalf as well as her collaborations with Gerard Cosmetics, Morphe and other companies not listed in the complaint. He also claims in the complaint that he proposed the logo for her upcoming cosmetic line that's set to be released in 2017.
Mathew also proposed product materials, artistic design, logo placement and packaging for a personal make up line that Jaclyn hoped to launch.
The reason for the lawsuit is he contends that Jaclyn presented to his a piece of paper that she claimed (according to his complaint) was merely acknowledging that he has no ownership to her company. He states in his complaint that he trusted her due to their friendship and didn't bother to read the form he was given and as such signed away his rights to his work for a mere $10. He also states in the complaint he did not get that $10 on top of being tricked out of signing away his rights. He stated that he didn't know he had signed away his rights to his work and continued helping her after signed that document.
On or about January 9, 2015, Jaclyn presented Mathew with a document that was purportedly prepared by her attorney. Exploiting Mathew’s trust, which was founded upon their close fiiendship, Jaclyn asked Mathew to simply sign the document, explaining to him that signing the document basically acknowledged he was not an owner in her company (See Exhibit “E”). Jaclyn also told Mathew that “everyone in her family” had to sign the same document as a business precaution. Based upon Jaclyn’s fraudulent misrepresentation of the purpose and content of the document, Mathew signed it without reviewing it or receiving a copy. Unbeknownst to Mathew, the document purported to be a Work for Hire Agreement which transferred to Jaclyn all past, current and future rights to Mathew’s designs; including the artwork, logos and branding he had already created back in 2013, all in exchange for ten dollars. Mathew did not, in fact, receive ten dollars upon signing the document. After being fraudulently induced to sign the unconscionable and unenforceable document, Mathew continued to provide his professional expertise and graphic
design skills to Jaclyn in support of her success, without knowledge of Jaclyn’s deception or the document’s actual content.
So fast forward a few months to May 2015. Chase states that a mutual friend of theirs went to him expressing concern over the logo's copyright due to Jaclyn being alleged to have attempted to misappropriate (which means steal) another friend's work. Chase states that he became concerned and immediately contacted Jaclyn to be told by her that he signed over the rights to him for $10. In a court exhibit Chase presented the court with an email from Jaclyn's mother in which Robin sent him an unsigned copy of the Work for Hire and not the copy which he allegedly signed.

Now here's where his other fraud complaint comes in. Chase states in the complaint that eventually he DID get a copy of the signed contract HOWEVER the date was changed from 2015 to 2014.
Mathew later received a signed copy of the Agreement, which had “January 9” hand-written on the date lines, but “20l4” typed into the body of the document. The year on the document was, in fact, incorrect. The metadata in the Microsoft Word document Mathew received via email shows that the original document was created on September 25, 2014, and therefore it could not possibly have been
signed on January 9, 2014.
At around that time Chase claims to stop doing things for Jaclyn such as styling her for events and working on other projects for he. He also alleges that he filed for a copyright to the logo and then sent her, in October 2015, a Cease and Desist letter via an attorney to which she responded that she owned the copyright to his work. As a result Chase filed a lawsuit against her in May 2016 about a year after he first realized, according to his complaint, that he was tricked.

He is suing her for four things:
  1. COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT - He maintains he owns the rights to the logo and other work he did for her.
  2. FRAUD IN THE INDUCEMENT - Tricking him into signing that paper by telling him it was something else than a Work For Hire.
  3. FRAUDULENT MISREPRESENTATION - Presenting the paper as something else.
  4. UNJUST ENRICHMENT - Making money while using the logo he designed.
Chase is asking that the court forces her to stop using the logo and to payment fair compensation for the work he did for her. 

So that's the case. All the "facts" of the lawsuit as presented by Chase. That said, the things he alleges in his complaint will need to be proven in court. Jaclyn has replied on social media that she has paid him for his work and that she has proof.

As of last week a judge set a hearing date for June 28. A day or two after Jaclyn's attorney file a motion to dismiss the case so on June 28 the case will either be dismissed OR it'll move on. IF it moves Jaclyn will have the option to let it go to a jury trial OR settle the case out of court. My guess is if it's not dismissed she'll choose the second option which would probably entail her paying him an undisclosed amount of money and he in turn sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement meaning he'll never be able to talk about the case. It also means she won't be able to either if his attorney asks for a provision that prohibits her from using social media to come across as her winning the case.

Now for my two cents.

Let me preface this part with I don't know Jaclyn. Never met her since she's part of the new generation of social media personalities. I have nothing against her on a personal level however on a professional level I do think she's nothing more than a very good saleswoman who has managed to manipulate her viewers into purchasing products that she "uses". I have noticed that the new crop of social media personalities do not conform to FTC guidelines on disclosing relationships with companies or if they're paid to review something. You better believe the woman is being paid by companies (just like Kylie Jenner is) to promote products. It's VERY good money with some contracts reportedly being hundreds of thousands of dollars. I hate to gossip but you know she was paid serious dollars from BECCA Cosmetics in order to afford a $119,000 SUV. Since the collection has an estimated retail value of over 5 million dollar her contract is possibly worth at least $500,000 (10% of the retail value).

That said, I've been keeping up with some of the social media comments being made over on Kevin James Bennett, three time Emmy winner, professional makeup artist and industry leader). My advice to both Chase and Jaclyn is to STOP using social media right now to discuss the case. This includes stop having your friends discuss the case with "there were checks" and "I paid him!" There is pending litigation and as such comments made on social media can either help or hurt your side of the case. It's also adding fuel to the fire with Jaclyn's fanatics (which is the full version of the term "fans") going on the attack to anyone discussing the case. Yes, we don't know the full story and we may never know if the case is dismissed or settled out of court but don't give people more to talk about. Right now the only 150% TRUE fact is that Chase is suing Jaclyn over the logo he designed. Whether or not she paid him and whether or not he owns the copyright to it remains to be seen.

Just remember this folks, don't believe all these social media personalities whose JOB ('cause baby, they get PAID serious money) it is to sell you something regardless of how good or how crappy a product is. They know how to manipulate products, ignore issues with products and sell, sell, sell. These people are salespeople whose job it is to get you to part with your money on behalf of the company that's paying them to. I've seen it time and time again not only with this generation of social media influencers but past ones. There's a LOT OF MONEY to be made with social media and most people will go to the "dark side" and choose to make money by tricking impressionable people with stories of poverty, mental health issues and try to be relate able.

Don't tell a lie, don't be false or untrue
It all comes back to you

Real Life - "Send Me An Angel"

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