Netflix faces $1 million defamation suit over ‘Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker’ documentary photo.

Hatch wielding HITCHHIKER

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Netflix is facing a defamation lawsuit of $1 million, which alleges that the company used an Instagram photo without permission in their documentary ‘Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker’.

According to a lawsuit filed in Dallas County, Texas, on April 10, Taylor Hazlewood, who is a respiratory therapist in a neonatal ICU, claims that Netflix used one of his Instagram photos in their documentary without obtaining his consent.


“The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker” was released in January and portrays the story of Caleb “Kai” McGillvary, who achieved internet notoriety for using his hatchet to defend a woman while hitchhiking. However, the documentary also portrays his downfall following his conviction for the murder of New Jersey attorney Joseph Galfy.


As per the lawsuit obtained by Variety, Hazlewood’s images holding a hatchet were reportedly taken from his personal Instagram account without his consent. These photos were allegedly coupled with audio that describes him as a “stone-cold killer,” text captions that state “you can never trust anyone,” and other pictures of Caleb Lawrence McGillvary.


According to the lawsuit, Hazlewood reportedly took a photo while holding his friend’s hatchet in June 2019 because it reminded him of his favorite childhood book, “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen.


Hazlewood posted the photo on his Instagram with the caption “Hatchet by Gary Paulsen” after taking it. However, he claims that Netflix “misappropriated” the photo by featuring it twice in the documentary alongside images of McGillvary, without obtaining his consent.


Hazlewood is reportedly seeking $1 million in damages from Netflix, stating that the unauthorized use of his photo has caused him reputational harm, anxiety, stress, and anguish. Hazlewood is allegedly concerned that people might perceive him as dangerous or untrustworthy, which could lead to a loss of future employment or relationships.


Hazlewood’s attorney, Angela Buchanan, stated in a statement to Variety that neither Netflix nor anyone involved in the making of the documentary contacted Hazlewood regarding the original context of his photo or their intended use of it.


Hazlewood’s attorney further added that the lack of due diligence on the part of those who used his photo alongside a convicted murderer has caused him a constant fear of the film’s impact on his reputation, personal relationships, and employment opportunities.


Netflix declined to comment on the lawsuit.


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