True crime is a popular genre right now for content, but occasionally, someone forgets the “true” part and puts innocent people in danger. That’s what recently happened when streamer Netflix allegedly used a man’s picture for their true crime documentary The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker without his knowledge or consent. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a defamation suit was recently brought against Netflix, and now a federal judge has found that the suit might have merit.
Taylor Hazlewood is suing Netflix after his image was used in the true crime documentary The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker without his consent.
Kentucky Man Taylor Hazlewood had his picture lifted from social media and used in the 2023 documentary The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker, accompanied by the audio “stone-cold killer” and captions that read “You can never trust anyone.”
Hazlewood sued Netflix earlier this year, claiming that his picture was taken from Instagram without his permission and used in a manner that implies he was somehow involved with the horrific crime at the center of the documentary.
The Netflix documentary revolves around Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, who became a viral sensation in 2013 after saving a woman by bludgeoning her attacker with a hatchet. Soon after the incident with the hatchet, McGillvary was convicted of murdering an attorney in a separate, unrelated incident.
Netflix used a photo of Hazlewood holding a hatchet for the documentary despite the fact that he had nothing to do with the crime whatsoever.
“Nothing in The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker can be reasonably labeled as accusing Hazlewood of anything, much less a specific crime.”-a lawyer representing Netflix
Netflix pushed for the suit to be dismissed, but on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge David Godbey declined to do so. Godbey found that the tone surrounding the scene in which Hazlewood’s picture appeared may have potentially accused him of falsely taking part in a crime. The judge cited allegations made against Netflix that its use of the photo “caused individuals to believe that he is himself, or is associated with, a criminal.”
Hazlewood pointed to reactions from people he knew who watched the true crime documentary as proof that Netflix had impacted his life negatively by using his likeness. “So something not so chill happens later in the documentary,” a friend texted Hazlewood. “Your picture shows up again after he’s charged with murder and its just bad vibes.”
One of Hazlewood’s other friends messaged him to tell I’m that he was watching the documentary when Hazlewood’s picture appeared onscreen, prompting him to wonder, “Did they steal your photo? How did you get on there?”
The Netflix documentary revolves around Caleb Lawrence McGillvary, who became a viral sensation in 2013 after saving a woman by bludgeoning her attacker with a hatchet.
Netflix argued for the dismissal of the lawsuit by stating that the documentary never actually made any accusations against Hazlewood. According to a lawyer representing Netflix, “Nothing in The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker can be reasonably labeled as accusing Hazlewood of anything, much less a specific crime,” and that only through “innuendo” could someone watching the documentary come to the “warped” and “implausible” conclusion that Hazlewood was involved in any crimes.
Godbey disagreed and claimed that Netflix not only didn’t ask for permission to use the photo but also failed to “determine the context and ownership of the photograph” before showing it onscreen.
One claim from Hazlewood was dismissed; however, his accusation that Netflix misappropriated his likeness. Godbey dismissed the claim after Hazlewood failed to prove that there was any commercial value in his brand.
The judge has, however, granted Hazlewood the opportunity to amend his claim.