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LaChapelle vs. Rihanna – a lesson in copyright law for photographers

Submitted by on February 20, 2011 – 10:31 amNo Comment

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Infringement of copyrights of photographers are of some interest lately. Daniel Morel for instance sues AFP over using his pictures he uploaded to Twitter without his permission.

David LaChapelle, a photographer who is noted for his surreal, unique, sexualized, and often humorous style (wikipedia), adds a surprisingly imaginative twist to the copyright meaning. He sues singer Rihanna for using his photographs for scenes in her music video “S & M” (NYT).

Not because he doesn’t like Rihanna, beware, he calls her a good friend. Not because he took the matter personal, no, it’s just about business. But it’s not an excusable little faux-pas either, he is asking for $1 million damage by

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this infringement of his copyright protections. Ouch, that sum might well hurt some friendships.

Whatever will be the outcome of this suit, well, sooner or later we will know. But hey, maybe this is not about testing the boundaries of the copyright law. Maybe this is a heck of a public relations spin between good friends? If so, photographers should pay attention and analyze the model of the PR-campaign. What would be needed, what has to be in place, so it would work to gain publicity?

Some thoughts to make you goin':

Let’s say you shot some pictures of a girl in a cowboy dress, with a stetson, boots, jeans and a plaid shirt (for a campaign to promote dairy products?). Da-boom, you could sue Madonna! Because she was dressed like a cowgirl in one of her music videos. How about demanding $5 million in this case, after all she’s Madonna? Now you just would have to convince Madonna, that this is not to be taken personal, but as a smart business deal to the benefit of both parties. And in case you would win the suit, next time Madonna may sue you.

Maybe the model works also between photographers?….
Or one is a photographer, the other one a painter? It seems there are a lot of variations possible here.

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