Jim Marshall’s Estate Sues Fashion Designer for Copyright Infringement

The estate of rock ‘n roll photographer Jim Marshall has sued fashion designer John Varvatos for using photos of celebrity musicians without permission in store displays.

According to the lawsuit, Varvatos infringed Marshall’s copyright by reproducing prints of Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, BB King, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and several other rock stars without permission. Varvatos allegedly displayed those reproductions in his own stores, as well as in Bloomingdale’s stores in California and elsewhere.

Bloomindale’s is also named as a defendant in the case, which was filed in federal court in San Francisco on December 29.

The lawsuit says that Varvatos purchased proof prints of the images several years ago from Marshall (who died in 2010), and made unauthorized copies for display in the designer’s New York store. Marshall found out about that and told Varvatos he had no right to make and display those reproductions.

“That having been clearly communicated, Marshall did Varvatos a favor and allowed him to keep the reproductions on the wall in the one story and the one store only,” the lawsuit alleges. “Varvatos knew this was the extent of the permission given, granted retroactively, and that no other reproductions could be made. Years later and after Marshall’s death, Defendants have now proceeded with new infringing reproductions.”

“John Varvatos collected Jim’s work and they were personal friends. He has also worked with many other great photographers on his advertising campaigns and on projects. He is selling art photography through his website. So it is truly astonishing that he would so blatantly violate copyright by reproducing Jim’s iconic images without permission,” said Amelia Davis, manager of Jim Marshall Photography LLC, in a prepared statement. Davis is the sole beneficiary of the estate of Jim Marshall. She added, “Jim fiercely protected his work from these kinds of abuses, and I will continue to do so.”

Davis is seeking an injunction to stop Varvatos from displaying the images. She is also suing for actual damages, which are not specified in the complaint, plus statutory damages “up to $150,000” for infringement of each image.

Varvatos and Bloomingdale’s have not yet filed responses to the claim.

A court date has not been set.

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