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Photographer’s Estate Sues Bloomingdale’s

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - The heirs of "world-renowned photographer" James J. Marshall claim menswear designer John Varvatos and Bloomingdales are reproducing and displaying Marshall's photos of legendary musicians in stores without permission, after "Marshall did Varvatos a favor and allowed him to keep the reproductions on the wall in the one store and the one store only."

Marshall's Estate sued John Varvatos of California Inc., John Varvatos Enterprises Inc., John Varvatos and Bloomingdales, alleging copyright infringement.

Marshall died in March 2010.

Among the photos mentioned in the federal complaint are "Jimi Hendrix with his guitar from Monterey Pop 1967 ... The Beatles coming onto the stage for their last concert at Candlestick Park ... The Rolling Stones backstage in San Francisco 1965; Grace Slick and Janis Joplin in 1967; Miles Davis sitting in the ring at Newman's Gym in San Francisco in 1971 ... John Coltrane at Gelder's studio 1963;" and "Jim Morrison San Jose in 1967."

"Plaintiff is informed and believes that defendants commenced copying, preparing derivative works, displaying, and/or distributing reproductions embodying plaintiff's images in connection with and in defendants' retail stores without the knowledge or consent of plaintiff. The infringing reproductions have appeared in defendants' stores throughout California, including in stores of defendants here in the Northern District, and plaintiff is informed and believes that the infringing reproductions are displayed in defendants' stores throughout the United States," according to the complaint.

"Plaintiff alleges that the acts of defendant Varvatos were willful for these, among other, reasons. Defendant Varvatos is a sophisticated purchaser of copyrighted material. Defendant John Varvatos purchased copies in the form of proofs of plaintiff's images and thereafter, without plaintiff's authorization or consent, made copies to display in the Varvatos Soho store in New York. When Marshall learned of this, he spoke to Varvatos and made it clear that there was absolutely no right to do so and that Varvatos knew better. That having been clearly communicated, Marshall did Varvatos a favor and allowed him to keep the reproductions on the wall in the one store and the one store only. Varvatos knew this was the extent of the permission given, granted retroactively, and that no other reproductions could be made. Years later and after Marshall's death, defendants have now proceeded with new infringing reproductions that are the subject of this lawsuit at a time when defendants were and are as clear as could be made that such acts of reproduction and display were and are infringing of plaintiff's copyright.

"The above described acts of reproduction, preparation of derivative works, display, distribution and sale of the infringing products constitute copyright infringement, including willful copyright infringement," the complaint states.

Varvatos worked for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein before creating his own clothing line in 2000 and now has several boutique shops, one of them in the former music club CBGB.

Marshall's estate seeks $150,000 in statutory damages, attorney fees, and an injunction.

It is represented by Lawrence Townsend of San Francisco.

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