April 26th, 2012

Jim Marshall’s Estate Sues “Mr. Brainwash” and Google for Copyright Infringement

John Coltrane Jim Marshall Thierry Guetta Mr. Brainwash

The estate of iconic music photographer James “Jim” Marshall filed a copyright infringement claim against Thierry Guetta (aka Mr. Brainwash) and Google for the unauthorized use of his images for advertising purposes. The brief states that copies of Marshall’s photos were used as part of a promotion for Google Music, a new online music service, as well as in derivative works.

According to the brief, for a Google event held at Guetta’s studio, the artist designed a backdrop using blown-up copies of photos Marshall made of musicians John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix, which “constituted unauthorized reproductions and display” of the images. The backdrop was placed to the side of the stage where the announcement for Google Music was made, and therefore Google is also liable for copyright infringement since the images were used to promote its new product, Marshall’s estate claims.

Google Music Event

Additionally, the brief states that Guetta used five of Marshall’s photos to make derivative works, some of which he is currently selling on his Web site. It appears that Marshall’s images of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Stanley Turrentine, as well as his group shots of Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Gerald Wilson, and Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones, were screen printed on to paper and then altered by either changing the color palette or adding words to the background.

Jimi Hendrix Jim Marshall Thierry Guetta

The brief is asking that all infringing works be turned over to the estate and that all profits derived from the infringing works be awarded to the estate. Additionally, its asking that any damages, attorneys’ fees and costs related to the trial be reimbursed.

This isn’t the first time Guetta has been accused of infringing on a photographer’s copyright. In June 2011, a federal judge ruled in favor of photographer Glen E. Friedman, who claimed that his image of hip-hop group Run-DMC was used as the basis of several works by Guetta. A settlement with Friedman has been reached, but the terms were not disclosed.

Additionally, Guetta has another copyright claim pending from photographer Dennis Morris. While Guetta admitted he did use Morris’s photo of Sex Pistol’s bassist Sid Vicious in derivative works of art, he claimed he did not know it was a copyrighted image. The two parties are currently working on a settlement agreement.

Neither Guetta nor Google responded immediately to a request for comment.

Update 4/27/12: Jim Prosser, manager global communications and public affairs for Google, responded to our request for comment by stating that Google has not received a copy of the complaint yet and therefore he cannot comment on it.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Sid Vicious was the drummer for the Sex Pistols. The text has been corrected.

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