13 September 2021CopyrightAlex Baldwin

Photographer can’t escape Jay-Z copyright claims

The photographer of the cover image for Jay-Z’s debut album “Reasonable Doubt” has lost a bid to escape claims from the rapper that he misused the copyrighted photograph without consent.

Jonathan Mannion had moved to dismiss Jay-Z’s claims, but the US District Court for the Central District of California ruled that Mannion could not prove that his usage of the photograph was protected under fair use without a trial

Mannion had sold prints of his photographs of Jay-Z, including the image used on the album cover, for “thousands of dollars” per copy, without permission from the rapper to use his likeness, according to the initial complaint filed on June 15.

The district court dismissed the original complaint with leave to amend for failing to sufficiently allege a basis for the court’s subject matter jurisdiction. The amended complaint then alleged that Mannion had violated the Californian statutory right of publicity, as well as the common law right of publicity.

In the opinion, submitted Wednesday, September 8, Judge Percy Anderson could not determine at this stage whether the images Mannion was selling were transformative.

Anderson also declined to state whether the right of publicity claims should be dismissed at this stage.

This suit follows a dispute between Jay-Z and fellow Roc-A-Fella co-founder over plans to auction off an NFT of the “Reasonable Doubt” album in an online crypto-bidding platform.

In June, The label succeeded in getting a temporary restraining order against co-founder Damon Dash, halting Dash’s plans to auction off the copyright to the album, with Roc-A-Fella claiming he had no right to do so.

Dash called the lawsuit “meritless” and “factually incorrect”, claiming that he had not planned on selling the entire album as an NFT, rather just his one-third share.

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