Photographer Sues Rihanna Saying Her Video Violates Copyright On His Photos

from the an-homage-is-infringing? dept

This is bizarre. Shocklee points us to the news that celebrity photographer David LaChapelle is suing singer Rihanna, claiming that the video of her latest song, "S&M" is "directly derived" from his photographs. I haven't seen the full lawsuit filing (anyone got it?), so I don't know all of the details of what's being alleged, but the derivative claims sound like a standard copyright claim. A few news sources have compared the video and the photos, and while they're similar and the photos certainly may have inspired the scenes in the video, they certainly don't look like direct copies in any way. Here are a few examples, video on the left, photos on the right.
I'm having trouble understanding how any of these would be considered copyright infringing. Sure, they may be homages to the original photos, but that shouldn't be infringing. Remember, copyright is only supposed to cover the specific expression, and not the idea. In all of these examples, it looks like the specific expression is quite different, even if the idea is similar. Why not just be happy with the flattery and move on? Of course, some will say that the press attention from the lawsuit is probably the reason why, and perhaps that's true, even if it's an incredibly cynical view on the world.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 10:41am

    Ooo ick! You put perez hilton on your blog.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Pickle Monger (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 10:56am

    Is someone feeling inadequat?

    Looks like David LaChapelle is feeling a little fame envy. The stuff in the photographs looks like the standard S&M fare. No reason why he should feel miffed. Does he expect me to pay him royalties every time I spank my girlfriend?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 2:11pm

    Totally unrelated, but does anyone knows if in the video is someone dialing a phone number by any chance?

    Hola Susana te estamos decodificando - Hello Susana we are decoding you

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 2:12pm

    Just for the curious.

    The decoding mentioned is about how to extract phone numbers from video that has someone dial it and you can hear it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Tom Landry (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 2:13pm

    a leather mistress leading a guy around on a leash.....yeah, thats unique.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Howard, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 2:14pm

    I can sympathize with the photog a bit in this case. My buddy is a vis artist (fine art) and his ideas keep showing up in movies. He knows htat it is not really actionable but I can see why it bugs him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Pickle Monger (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 2:21pm

      Re:

      Wouldn't this be good for your friend? He can now pitch his work to studios by saying "Look. These were my ideas. I'm happy you used them and this proves my ideas are good. Let's see what I can create specifically for you instead of someone else recycling my old stuff."

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 2:45pm

    I don't feel sympathy for David LaChapelle, many people believe they are original when what they did was guided by their times and environment that lead them to a certain conclusion.

    University of Washington: Building Rome in a Day

    The program above collect millions of picture from Flickr to reconstruct Rome in one day in 3D, if we asked the program to come up with the images that have close resemblance I'm sure that there will not be a hundred, but thousands of images related to any one of those pictures.

    Maybe that is the way to solve derivative works now ask a computer system to identify all images that are similar and sue everyone LoL

    Or maybe we realize that we are not that original and shouldn't be going legal for those things.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 4:34pm

    The walking a guy on a leash "hurrr durrr look how empowered and also kinky I am" thing is completely uncreative, and was even when Madonna did it before either of you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Alex Bowles, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 7:45pm

    double standard?

    Here's work by David LaChapelle that pays (exceedingly close) homage to Andy Warhol.

    http://www.phillipsdepury.com/auctions/lot-detail.aspx?sn=UK010211&search=&p=15&a mp;order=&lotnum=370

    Ironically, the 'original' (i.e. Warhol's painting) is - itself - derived from yet another photograph. So by the time LaChapelle took a photo that was composed and processed to look like a painting that was itself an image of an image, the whole "derivative work" thing had taken on several layers. Indeed, they are both derivative works ABOUT derivative works.

    In fairness to LaChapelle, he explicitly credits his source in Warhol. But did he get advance permission from the Warhol estate and pay whatever they would likely charge for this? I have no idea, but if LaChapelle is going to get into a fight like the one he's in, now would be a great time for him to say which side of this issues he's been on in the past.

    Does anyone else know if his "Amanda Lepore as Andy Warhol's Marilyn (Red)" was done with the permission and payment? Or did he just do it because he wanted to, offering nothing more that the credit that *he* felt was due, and nothing more?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 3:30pm

    UPDATED this page for ya, Mike, with a bit of actuality:

    by Mike Masnick Fri, Oct 21st 2011 2:18pm

    Homage Is Expensive: Rihanna Pays Up To Settle Photographer's Lawsuit

    We've been covering the lawsuit filed by photographer Dave LaChapelle because the video for Rihanna's song S&M appeared to mimic some of the ideas found in some of his photographs:

    Of course, we thought that there was an idea/expression dichotomy in copyright law that says you can't copyright the idea -- just the expression. So we thought that a judge would make quick work of the case. Instead, the judge confirmed what we already suspected: the idea/expression dichotomy is a total and complete myth, and the case could move forward. This was reasonably troubling for lots of folks -- though certainly for Rihanna.

    So it came as little surprise that Rihanna has "settled" the lawsuit with LaChapelle, meaning that she gave him a bunch of cash to go away. The lesson in all of this? Homage is expensive. You're best off not bothering.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Karl Baker, Nov 24th, 2013 @ 1:44pm

    Blatant Copyright!

    Thats blatant copyright in my eyes..Rhianna also knew this!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This