Rihanna Sued By David LaChapelle Over ‘S&M’ Music Video

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“This is not personal, strictly business. Musicians commonly pay to sample music or use someone’s beats and there should be no difference when ‘sampling’ artist’s visuals.”

via  Radar Online.

There Are 16 Comments On This Article.

  1. I thought Dave was retired and living on a nudist camp somewhere on the hawaiian islands? Regardless, if she is guilty then the guy is helping us all out by protecting things like this happening in the future for all photographers… go get it!

  2. ok, educate me a little more about copyright infringement. do you think that the Rihanna crew would have a valid defense of ‘fair use’ by claiming that a derivative work, i.e., video, was created from LaChapelle’s ideas?

    it’s obvious infringement to me, but what might a judge rule if they claim this defense?

    • @Tim – One of the primary elements in cases like this is the willful act of copyright infringement on the part of the defending party.
      Proof of strong, key evidence will, undoubtedly, be pursued by LaChapelle’s attorneys as stated in the following alegations:
      LaChapelle also claims that director Melina Matsoukas was “asked by Rihanna or persons acting on her behalf to create a LaChapelle-esque music video” and that “prior to the hiring of Matsoukas, another well-known director was asked to create a LaChapelle-esque inspired music video for Rihanna and that director rejected the offer.”

      In addition, LaChapelle alleges that ” the storyboards used for the Music Video consisted of or contained prints of the LaChapelle Works or other LaChapelle photographs.”

      I was involved in a similar experience several years ago with regard to this matter when a major jeans brand appropriated obvious key elements of one of my published photographs for their ad campaign.

      It’ll get real complicated if Rihanna and her label bypass a settlement and pursue a trial.

  3. I would suspect that a ‘de minimis’ defence will put this one beyond the reach of Chapelle. Of course if their egos are big enough they will slug it out in court and only the lawyers will win. But at the moment they are both winning as they wash their dirty underwear in public and rack up the column inches in publicity! Do I sound cynical?

  4. Looking through the side-by-side images that Radar posted I wouldn’t really say that “it’s obvious infringement”, with the exception of this first one – http://www.radaronline.com/sites/radaronline.com/files/photos/image_20110203/sizedImage1.jpg

    The rest just strike me a pretty standard imagery used in the S&M/kink scene, so of course there’s going to be thematic overlap between Rihanna’s video (which I admit I’ve not seen) and LaChapelle’s photos.

  5. A Realist or a Cynic

    I dunno. I think Paul Reuben should sue them both for ripping off Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

    In reality, if someone can shoot a Marlboro ad and it’s fair use – how does this not qualify? I don’t agree with the Marlboro one at all – but how many music videos are *not* somewhat inspired by photographs? How many music video directors *don’t* use a bunch of photographs for reference? You can’t copy them, but who doesn’t see Joel Peter Witkin in the brilliant Romanek video for Closer?

    Have only looked at a few Rihanna pics, but I don’t see it. Didn’t LaChapelle direct an Aguilera video where he tried to rip Hurrell to do something different?

    Be curious to hear from any attorneys on whether this is actually a case. Also, what if Rihanna’s people hired the set designer that LaChapelle uses? Maybe those designs are his property, and the depictions of them LaChapelle’s property? Seems pretty foggy to me.

  6. Photo Assistant

    If this goes goes to trial and David wins, that means that every photographer that ever showed up on set with a tear sheet and told their photo assistants and stylists to: “Make it look like this!” would be open to law suites.
    That’s one very long list.
    And proof exists in all of those Polaroids that the photo assistants have held on to over the years.

    • @Photo Assistant,

      These legal matters are (and should be), decided on a case-by-case basis. There are so many variables that determine the outcome for any given case i.e., individual state laws, underlying circumstances unique to an individual case, the uniqueness of the image in question (is it so different and unique that any similar reference would definitely imply infringement), case law references (documented rulings of similar cases), the plaintiff’s earning ability, monetary or commercial value estimate or potential of damage incurred by derivative work and the list can go on.
      All of these factors will be scrutinized by opposing attorneys as well as the court if it reaches that point.

  7. They might have taken inspiration from David LaChapelle’s images but I’m not sure they infringed his copyright. Take the leash photo as an example, the only similarities is that it is a man on the right side of the frame on a leash being held by a women on the left. However since I don’t think LaChapelle created or copyrighted the concept of D/s or Puppy play.

    LaChapelle did it so much better.

  8. I always thought David drew inspiration from Cheyco Leidmann.
    One simple image search on google and you’ll see what I mean.
    He certainly took it to a different level and I think he is brilliant and clearly his photos were used as “Inspiration” for the video, happens all the time.
    I’ve worked with some of the most famous video directors in the world and every shoot starts off with boards of “tears” from fashion magazines and art books. There are almost no original thinkers in the biz… just great magpies:)
    What was Picasso’s quote…” Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.”
    Let the games begin.

    • scott Rex Ely

      @John, Yeah Cheyco Leidmann. I can’t imagine being the first person to see a Cibachrome or Dye Transfer print of one of Cheyco’s images as it was sitting in the wash. The Jello like depth of such rich color. Juicy beyond. Jolly Ranchers for your eyes.

  9. I remember the first images by David and everybody thought they are from Cheyco Leidmann.I love Picasso’s quote….

  10. to gwendo
    you are so right, same happened to me,thought they were from cheyco leidman.there is always a leader.

  11. I don’t think LaChapelle can win this one. The pop music business, is, unfortunately, all about copy-catting, and if you can claim to be doing a “send-up,” you’re almost immune in practical terms. Also, the hip-hop world, where sampling has gone from royalty-free home turntable use to the international market, often without the benefit of rights-checking, has dramatically reduced even record companies’ respect for intellectual property. Appropriating imagery is a natural next step.

    The class thing for the Rihanna team to do would be to publicly acknowledge LaChapelle’s influence, praise him, thank him for his artistry, throw him a couple hundred thousand out of court, and not pull any more crap like this. Their machine is way too huge and profitable to be stealing anything. It’s just low-rent behavior.