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August 12th, 2011

Vampire Weekend Case Dismissed

A lawsuit against rock band Vampire Weekend, the band’s record label, and a photographer who allegedly provided an image for use on a Vampire Weekend album without a model’s permission has been dismissed.

Model Ann Kirsten Kennis asked a federal court in Los Angeles to dismiss the case, after she reached a settlement with Vampire Weekend and its label, XL Records. Kennis sued in 2010 after photographer Tod Brody licensed a Polaroid image of Kennis for use on the cover of the band’s Contra album.

The complete news story is available on

June 24th, 2011

Another Photog Threatens to Sue Rihanna Over Music Video

Philipp Paulus alleges that the S&M video image (left) is a rip-off of his photograph (right)

First David LaChapelle sued Rihanna for infringement, claiming she ripped off some of his photographs to create the video for her hit song S&M. Now a young Paris fashion photographer is threatening to sue on the grounds that Rihanna ripped off his work, too.

Photographer Philipp Paulus, 19, issued a press release claiming that a scene from the S&M video showing Rihanna pinned to a wall with plastic wrap and black tape is identical to the “set, staging and photographies” of Paulus’s “Paperworld” fashion series.

“The copyright laws of our client has been infringed and the worldwide million-wise exploitation of the video “S&M“ is unlawful,” Paulus’s lawyer says in a press release which was badly translated from the French before it was posted by the celebrity watch site Radar

“Why a worldwide celebrity is not able to afford a creative director…is incomprehensible to me,” Paulus says, adding that Rihanna “stole ideas from a creative talent” rather than create her own work.

The press release also accuses Universal Music, Rihanna’s record label, of hypocrisy. Universal spends a lot of money and resources to locate and admonish those who infringe its copyrighted music, the press release points out. “It is even more astonishing that – how in this case – the major-label Universal Music does exactly what itself denounces and admonishes – namely the infringement of the copyright of others!!”

Where and when Paulus actually files suit remains to be seen, but if he follows through on his threat, he’ll have the same uphill legal battle that LaChapelle is having. That is, he’ll have to prove that Rihanna copied his photographic execution–including  elements such as lighting, styling, props, lenses, camera angles, etc–and not just his creative ideas.

David LaChapelle Sues Rihanna for Infringement
You Be the Judge: Did Rihanna Infringe David LaChapelle’s Work?
Rihanna’s Lawyers Give David LaChapelle a Spanking

June 9th, 2011

Judge Rules for Photog In Copyright Suit Over RUN DMC Photo

French artist Theirry Guetta is guilty of infringing on photographer Glen E. Friedman’s copyright, a federal judge has ruled.

Guetta was accused of using a well-know Friedman image of hip-hop pioneers RUN DMC as the basis for several artworks, including “posters, lithographs, paintings and other art,” according to the complaint filed by Freidman and his lawyers in a California district court.

“To permit one artist the right to use without consequence the original creative and copyrighted work of another artist simply because that artist wished to create an alternative work would eviscerate any protection by the copyright act,” said Judge Harry Pregerson in his ruling. Pregerson serves on the US Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit.

A separate hearing will determine the damages owed to Friedman.

Related: Photog Glen E. Friedman Suing Artist For Infringement of RUN DMC Image

May 27th, 2011

PDN Video Pick: Wolf Parade “Yulia” Music Video, Chris Hornbecker/Hello Artists

A music video for the indie rock band Wolf Parade, shot by photographer Chris Hornbecker with director Scott Coffey. “Yulia,” the story of a Russian cosmonaut lost in space and his lover’s quest to connect with him, was chosen as a winner in the Video category of the PDN Photo Annual.

May 25th, 2011

In Vampire Weekend Case, Tod Brody’s Lawyers Decide to Quit

Tod Brody's lawyers say they no longer want to defend him over this image.

Lawyers for the photographer who allegedly provided a photograph with a forged model release for use on the cover Vampire Weekend’s “Contra” album are trying to quit the case.

The lawyers, who represent Tod Brody, complained to the court that their client doesn’t respond to their phone calls or e-mails, and has refused to pay his legal bills. So they want to drop him as a client.

Read the rest of the story here.

May 24th, 2011

Stirring Up Trouble Over Beyoncé’s New Video

Pop singer Beyoncé has debuted a new music video for her song “Run the World (Girls),” and because it seems to reference the work of other artists, The Guardian newspaper of London has raised the question: Is it homage or appropriation?

“The most obvious influence is the work of South African photographer Pieter Hugo,” The Guardian says, on the basis of some footage in the video showing Beyoncé with a couple of hyenas. But to compare those fleeting video images to Hugo’s “hyena men” of Nigeria is quite a stretch, and a little insulting to Hugo’s fine work.

Screen grab from Beyoncé's new video: a Pieter Hugo ripoff? Really?

“The work of another photographer, Ed Kashi, can also be discerned in shots of buffalo, sand, and burning cars,” The Guardian writer continues.

Sand? Wait. Are they sure Beyoncé didn’t appropriate scenes of sand from David Lean’s film, Lawrence of Arabia?

Lest anyone think The Guardian writers are completely dotty, they note that their rival, The Daily Mail, compared the choreography in the video to Riverdance. “The words Mad Max were bandied around, too,” says The Guardian.

Not that The Guardian needs help here, but I thought the opening dance moves looked a little Michael Jackson-esque. Watching the video over my shoulder, my 13-year-old daughter declared Beyoncé’s costumes “a total rip-off of Lady Gaga.” And those hyenas “appropriated” from Pieter Hugo were leashed with chains. Perhaps that’s a rip-off of Rihanna’s S&M video, which is allegedly a rip-off of  David LaChapelle’s work. What’s next? Is Helen Reddy going to come out of the woodwork with a charge that “Run the World (Girls)” is a rip-off of “I Am Woman”?

If Pieter Hugo had a monopoly on pictures of hyenas, and Ed Kashi a monopoly on pictures of burning cars or sand, the courts would be clogged until the end of time with squabbling artists. Fortunately for everyone, though, ideas are not protected–only the executions of ideas are.

In the end, Beyoncé’s video may be an unoriginal pile-up of cultural references. But it almost certainly doesn’t rise to the level of a copyright crime.

LaChapelle Sues Rihanna for Infringement

You Be the Judge: Did Rihanna Infringe David LaChapelle’s Work?
Rihanna’s Lawyers Give David LaChapelle a Spanking

March 7th, 2011

PDN Video Pick: Pieter Hugo’s “Control” Music Video

Photographer Pieter Hugo co-directed this video for South African artist/dj Spoek Mathambo’s “Control,” a very tangy cover of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control.” The Cape Town-based Hugo,known for his books and exhibitions Nollywood and The Hyena & Other Men, and cinematographer Michael Cleary shot the video in a hostel in Langa, Cape Town, with a cast of local teens including members of the Happy Feet dance troupe.

Watch and see how long it takes to get the song, or the imagery, out of your head.

Fulll credits and cast list can be found on Vimeo.

(Via Wayne Lawrence Photography)

February 18th, 2011

You Be the Judge: Did Rihanna Infringe David LaChapelle’s Work?

As we reported two days ago, David LaChapelle has sued pop singer Rihanna, charging that her new music video called “S&M” was “directly derived from and is substantially similar to” his images.

Does he have a case? You decide. Below are the exhibits from David LaChapelle’s claim, showing his images side-by-side with frame grabs from Rihanna’s video.

As intellectual property attorney Nancy Wolff explained in our previous story, the case turns not on whether the “S&M” video copied LaChapelle’s ideas. (Ideas are not protected by copyright law.) Instead, the legal question is whether the video copied LaChapelle’s executions too closely. In other words, is the video “substantially similar” enough to LaChapelle’s images to constitute copyright infringement?

The “substantially similar” standard is subjective, but courts decide by comparing distinct copyrightable elements of the executions. Those elements include composition, format, camera angle, lighting, props, styling, and other factors.

As a judge, you have three basic options when you do the comparison:

1. You can decide that no reasonable jury would find substantial similarity, and dismiss the case. (The plaintiff could appeal.)

2. You can decide that any reasonable jury would find substantially similarity, and declare victory for the plaintiff. (The defendant could appeal, but would be under pressure to settle.)

3. You can decide you’re not sure what a reasonable jury might decide–and send the case to trial by jury.

Without further ado, here are the exhibits. In each instance, David LaChapelle’s images are on the left, while the “S&M” video frame grabs are on the right:

February 16th, 2011

David LaChapelle Sues Rihanna for Infringement

Photographer David LaChapelle has filed suit against pop star Rihanna for allegedly copying eight of his widely published photographs in a new music video. He is seeking at least $1 million in damages and an injunction to stop distribution of the video.

LaChapelle is suing not only Rihanna, but the director of the video for her song “S&M,” as well as the video production company and Rihanna’s record label. He filed the claim on Monday in federal district court in Manhattan.

Known for his surreal fashion and editorial images, LaChapelle alleges that Rihanna asked the director of her “S&M” video to make it “LaChapelle-esque.” He charges that the storyboards for the video included prints of his images, to bolster his claim that his work was copied willfully. (more…)

February 1st, 2011

Photog Glen E. Friedman Suing Artist For Infringement of RUN DMC Image

Photographer Glen E. Friedman is suing artist Theirry Guetta for copyright infringement in a case that echoes the recently settled legal dispute between the Associated Press and Shepard Fairey. To create his iconic “Hope” poster of Obama, Fairey used an image of Obama taken by a photographer working for the Associated Press without permission. The AP claimed infringement, while Fairey argued fair use. The parties settled recently, with neither admitting defeat.

Thierry Guetta is accused of using a well-know Friedman image of hip-hop pioneers RUN DMC as the basis for several artworks, including “posters, lithographs, paintings and other art,” according to the complaint filed by Freidman and his lawyers in a California district court.

Friedman alleges that Guetta’s use of the image has caused “substantial damage to [Friedman’s] business in the form of diversion of trade, loss of income and profits, and a dilution of the value of its rights.”

In establishing copyright, the complaint notes that the image of RUN DMC was included in a copyrighted book Friedman published in 1994. The complaint also notes that Guetta has sold products based on the copyrighted image.

In their answer to the complaint, Guetta and his lawyers deny that Guetta had any knowledge that he was infringing on Friedman’s copyright. They claim that Guetta’s work is protected by the First Amendment (free speech) and that if any use of the copyrighted work is proved, it is fair use.

A trial date has not been set.