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Fashion Photog Sues Rihanna & Def Jam

MANHATTAN (CN) - Photographer David LaChapelle sued Island Def Jam Music and Rihanna in Federal Court, claiming Rihanna's "S&M" music video was based in great part on eight of his copyrighted photos, and that even the storyboards for the video "consisted of or contained prints" of his works.

LaChapelle claims the defendants made and distributed the video "in a transparent attempt to exploit plaintiff's pre-eminent reputation and the instant recognition among the public of his provocative, innovative style, without having to pay his fees."

LaChapelle demands treble damages and punitive damages for copyright and trademark infringement, unfair competition and unjust enrichment. He wants the defendants enjoined from distributing or "exploiting the music video in any manner."

He also sued Black Dog Films, of Los Angeles, which made the video; Melina Matsoukas, also of L.A., who directed it; and UMG Recordings, the corporate parent of Def Jam.

Rihanna's actual name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty.

LaChapelle is a well-known fashion and celebrity photographer who shot the portrait of Keith Richards on the cover of the rocker's new autobiography, "Life."

Rihanna and her co-defendants released the "S&M" video on Jan. 21.

LaChapelle claims: "The music video copies original photographs conceived and created by plaintiffs, including the eight photographs set forth on the left column of Exhibit A attached ..."

He says Rihanna and Def Jam are both well-aware of his works: he shot Rihanna "in a day-long shoot in July 2007" and photographed Mariah Carey for her Def Ham album released at Christmas 2010.

He claims that "Matsoukas was asked by Rihanna or persons acting on her behalf to make a 'LaChapelle-esque music video.'"

He claims: "Prior to the hiring of Matsoukas, another well-known director was asked to create a LaChapelle-inspired music video for Rihanna and that director rejected the offer.

"Upon information and belief, the storyboards for the music video consisted of or contained prints of the LaChapelle works and other LaChapelle photographs."

He claims: "Defendants at no time requested permission from plaintiff to copy the LaChapelle works or create derivative works based on them.

"The music video is directly derived from and substantially similar to the LaChapelle works.

"Examples of defendant's appropriation of plaintiff's artistic expression are contained in Exhibit A attached hereto, setting forth frames from the music video next to the LaChapelle works from which they obviously copied, inter alia, plaintiff's composition, total concept, feel, tone, mood, theme, colors, props, setting, decors, wardrobe and lighting.

"For example, plaintiff's photograph 'Latex' features a close-up of a female in profile (her left side is facing the camera) against a blue background wearing false eyelashes and a close-fitting, shiny, pink latex hood, with her mouth open and a cup the size of a small candy on her tongue; in the music video, Rihanna is seen in close-up profile (with her left side facing the camera) against a blue background wearing false eyelashes and a close-fitting, shiny, pink latex hood, with her mouth open and placing a small candy on her tongue.

"Defendants' blatant reliance on the LaChapelle works, including incorporating them on the storyboards for the video shoot, confirms that defendants' infringing acts were willful, wanton and deliberate."

LaChapelle is represented by Debra Mayer with Shatzkin & Mayer.

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