Playboy International Enterprises filed the lawsuit Tuesday against hip-hop gossip site Mediatakeout.com LLC.
The nine-page complaint accuses the website, with an office on Church Street in Manhattan, of having wrongfully “reproduced, distributed and publicly displayed” multiple “iconic photographic images” of Banks.
Noted fashion and beauty photographer Ellen Von Unwerth took the photos of the 24-year-old rapper, and Playboy registered the works with the U.S. Copyright Office in February 2015, according to the complaint. Von Unwerth is not a party to the action.
Playboy, which operates out of Beverly Hills, Calif., says it had planned to publish the spread in its April 2015, but discovered unauthorized copies of the images on the Media Takeout blog in March, before its magazines even hit the stands.
The nine-page lawsuit contains links to four URLs where Media Takeout allegedly displayed the unauthorized photos. Each link misspells Banks’ first name, with extra text like “Nekkid Playboy” and “Loud-Mouth Rapper.”
As of press time, the three .jpg addresses that supposedly once showed the Playboy images all redirect to Media Takeout’s home page.
The original article link, ending in .html, still works, leading to a page with a headline that says “MTO Exclusive: We Got the UNCENSORED Nekkid Playboy Pics … of LOUD MOUTH Rapper Azaelia Banks … And Her Body Looks VERY STRUGGLE!” (Ellipses, spelling and capitalization in original.)
After a March 17 dateline, the blurb goes on to criticize Banks for her “pitbull face,” and her supposed lack of hips, butt and breasts.
“Pick up a copy of the issue on NEWSSTANDS THIS WEEKEND – if you want to see the rest of the pics!!” the article says.
Not only did the site take Playboy’s property, but it also doctored the images by affixing its “MEDIATAKEOUT.COM” watermark to each pilfered photo, according to the complaint.
Playboy suspects that the “defendant knowingly altered and/or falsified copyright management information to conceal defendant’s infringement of plaintiff’s registered and unregistered copyright works.”
Playboy accuses the blog of direct copyright infringement and violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
It seeks an injunction preventing further publication of the pictures on Media Takeout, which touts itself on its homepage as “the most visited urban website in the world.”
Playboy is also seeking “maximum statutory damages,” in either the amount of profits the blog netted from its unauthorized reproduction of the photos, or $150,000 per copyright infringement violation.
The nude-magazine giant is represented by R. Terry Parker with Duane Morris.
Representatives from Media Takeout did not respond to a request for comment.
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