Photo Scout Says Leibovitz Swiped Credit

MANHATTAN (CN) – Annie Leibovitz sold a location scout’s photos as her own, an Italian photographer claims in Federal Court. Leibovitz, whose celebrity portraits have graced slick magazines for years, faces financial difficulties, including a previous claim about a $24 million loan, allegedly secured by the rights to all of her photographs and her four homes.

     In the most recent case, Italian photographer Paolo Pizzetti claims Leibovitz hired him to scout a handful of Italian cities after Italian company Lavazza Premium Coffees hired Leibovitz to shoot the pictures for its yearly calendar.
     Pizzetti says he spent two days photographing Venice, Rome and Tuscany, among other scenic locales. He says he sent Leibovitz digital copies of his pictures, and that Leibovitz Studio asked him to help with Leibovitz’s planned shoot of Venice’s Piazza San Marco and Rome’s Trevi Fountain and Ponte Milvio.
     Three weeks later, Pizzetti says, Leibovitz asked him to upload two of his pictures, one of the Piazza and another of the Trevi Fountain, to Leibovitz Studio’s internal Web site. Pizzetti says he did so, but did not give Leibovitz permission to publish the pictures.
     He claims Leibovitz Studios canceled the shoot in which Pizzetti was supposed to assist, claiming the shoot would take place in New York instead. Pizzetti says the two pictures he uploaded appear in the calendar, credited to Leibovitz.
     Pizzetti demands nearly $300,000. He is represented by Raymond Dowd with Dunnington Bartholow & Miller.
     Leibovitz could lose her homes and the rights to her work, unless she repays a $24 million loan to Art Capitol Group that was due on Tuesday, Sept. 8, according to a previous federal complaint. Here is Courthouse News’ July 31 story on that lawsuit.
     Art Agent Sues Annie Leibovitz
     On $24 Million Loan, Rights to Art
     Sarah Hull
     MANHATTAN (CN) – Talk about a dire financial picture. An art consultancy claims it helped Annie Leibovitz dig out from a pile of debts with a $24 million loan, on her promise to give it right of first refusal to sell photos from her archive and her West Village apartment, and that Leibovitz took the money and is trying to back out of the deal.
     Leibovitz, famed for her iconic photography and Vogue magazine covers, was sued in New York County Court by Art Capital Group, which says the terms of the loans were stated in a sales agreement.
     Art Capital says Leibovitz approached it in June 2008, seeking help sorting out her “dire financial condition.” It claims Leibovitz was overwhelmed by “mortgage obligations, tax liens, and unpaid bills to service providers.”
     Art Capital says it negotiated a $22 million line of credit through its affiliate, American Photography, in exchange for right of first refusal to the sale of any of her assets. A few months later, Art Capital says, Leibovitz asked that the loan be increased to $24 million with a reduced interest rate.
     Art Capital says it agreed, and that Leibovitz “drew down the entirety of the $24 million credit facility.” In return, it says, the photographer agreed to a sales agreement which, throughout the term of the loan and for two years afterward, “expressly authorized the plaintiff to act as Leibovitz’ agent for … every photographic image (she had) ever taken …”
     It claims that when she negotiated the first loan, “Leibovitz discussed and acknowledged that Leibovitz’ fine art, intellectual property and real estate assets, all collateral for the loan, would likely need to be sold, in whole or in part, as part of the process of Leibovitz’ financial restructuring.”
     The sales agreement also made Art Capital the agency to sell Leibovitz’ Rhinebeck and Manhattan homes, according to the complaint.
     But Art Capital says that after having received “the benefits of a reduced interest rate” Leibovitz “and the Leibovitz Entities now seemingly pretend that they do not understand the Sales Agreement and seek to ignore their obligations under it.”
     Art Capital says Leibovitz has “blocked the plaintiff’s rights to act as Leibovitz’ exclusive sales agent,” prevented real estate brokers from showing her properties, and has failed to pay invoices Art Capital’s invoices totaling “hundreds of thousands of dollars.” It says the $24 million loan is due on Sept. 8.
     Art Capital says Leibovitz’ breach of the sales agreement is “nonsensical,” because the sale of her collateral would enable her to pay off the loan, and make a profit.
     Art Capital seeks a declaration that the sales agreement is in full force and effect, and that it has the right to sell Leibovitz’ fine art collateral, and get access to her property. It is represented by William Dahill with Wollmuth Maher.

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