A Kentucky man is pursuing a lawsuit against Netflix after his photo was allegedly used without permission in a true-crime documentary.
According to reports, Taylor Hazlewood is seeking more than £804,000 ($1million) in damages after the streaming platform used his image in a documentary about a convicted murderer. As reported by Insider, his photograph was used in the 2023 true-crime show The Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker – which focused on Caleb ‘Kai’ McGillvary, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 2019 (via The Washington Post).
The photograph used was taken from Hazlewood’s Instagram page and showed him holding a hatchet. Allegedly, this was used by Netflix without his permission, and was shown on-screen with audio stating: “Is this a guardian angel or a stone-cold killer?”
In a statement given to Insider, his lawyer, Angela Buchanan said that Hazlewood had “no connection whatsoever to the people or events depicted in the film” and “never sought or did anything to attract attention for the McGillvary story”.
“Despite this, his personal Instagram photograph was included twice within the film,” she continued. “The second use was included alongside a photograph of McGillvary, after he committed murder, with audio stating that he was either a guardian angel or a ‘stone-cold killer.’”
According to Hazlewood, the photograph of him holding the hatchet was taken in homage to his favourite childhood book, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, and was used by Netflix to portray him in a “sinister and defamatory light” (via Insider).
The Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker follows the story of McGillvary, who went viral in 2013 after he intervened in an assault by using a hatchet. Three months later, however, he was wanted in relation to the killing of New Jersey lawyer Joseph Galfy. Upon appearing in court, McGillvary pleaded not guilty to the crime, but was convicted of first-degree murder in 2019.
At time of writing, Netflix has not yet commented on the lawsuit.
In other Netflix news, earlier today (April 19) it was revealed that political K-drama series, Queenmaker, has become the platform’s most-watched non-English series this week. In a four-star review of the series, NME praised Queenmaker for its “complex political maneuverings”.