Photographer David LaChapelle Sues Rihanna For Being a Copycat

Fashion photographer David LaChapelle is launching a lawsuit against Rihanna over the controversial music video for her song S&M. LaChapelle alleges that “the music video is directly derived from and substantially similar to the LaChapelle works” and that it copied the “composition, total concept, feel, tone, mood, theme, colors, props, settings, decors, wardrobe and lighting” of eight of his photographs.

In the side-by-side comparisons seen above, LaChapelle’s work is on the left and a still from Rihanna’s music video is on the right.

In a tweet directed at the singer (which has since been removed), LaChapelle wrote,

What are your thoughts on this case? Is it plagiarism or simply one artist being inspired by another’s style?

(via Yahoo Music)

Update: Now fashion photographer Philipp Paulus is also pointing out similarities between scenes in the music video and a fashion editorial he shot back in 2010. Here’s a comparison (Paulus’ work is on the left):

(via Photography News)

  • Duncan Kinney

    You can’t copywrite visual ideas. Sorry dude, you lose this one.

  • Zak Henry

    She/the people that made the music video need a public wrist slapping, nothing more. They should have informed the photographer they were incorporating his ideas.

  • Anonymous

    Both look like a swingers party in Barbie’s Dream House they should fear the wrath of Mattel.

    I’m thinking the guy that started the whole low-angle fisheye thing should be in for millions. (was he East Coast or West Coast?)

  • Seshan

    I don’t see this going far…

    So David has never been inspired by anyone else? He’s never gotten ideas from another photograph? His photography business must not be doing so great.

  • Mr XBob

    So if a guy released a music video tomorrow of himself wearing a black suit, pink shirt and red bow-tie walking along a street whilst the paving stones lit up beneath his feet before a tiger ran out from behind a trashcan, do you really think the Jackson Estate wouldn’t sue him? Those are all “visual ideas”. And they would most likely win.

  • JB

    Then he needs to be sued by Andy Warhol’s estate for his copycat series Amanda Lepore as Andy Warhol’s Liz and Amanda Lepore as Andy Warhol’s Marylin. See them here:

  • Robert Shaver

    I think we, as a society, are going crazy with IP ownership. Keep in mind that copyright and patents are a government granted monopoly and a monopoly has only one purpose … stifle competition. I understand the arguments in favor, but do you see the damage it inflicts? For two years now nothing has entered the Public Domain.

    The Associated Press asserts that copying any five or more words from one of their articles is copyright infringement. You can’t sell photograph with certain building in the picture … copyright. The caretakers of Stonehedge claim copyright on your pictures of this ancient artifact.

    Everything is copyrighted and everything is derived, in some way, from what has gone before. Did Rihanna copy too closely? I don’t know. Patents and copyright have some benefit, but taking it to these extremes also has a negative effect on innovation and creativity.

  • ranger9

    “Your porno-trash looks too much like my porno-trash”…? Normally I’m very sympathetic to creators’ rights, but going strictly by the examples reproduced here, the connection seems strained. Still, I admit I’d love it if both these talentless pop-culture parasites litigated each other right out of public existence, like the Kilkenny Cats (the combative felines, not the band)…

  • fauxtog
  • fauxtog
  • Anonymous

    Lets not forget about when T-Mobile sued Engadget for using their copyrighted magenta color. A color. For realz.

  • Michael Turcotte

    In 2003, Madonna ripped off fashion photographer Guy Bourdin’s legacy for her “Hollywood” video. Samuel, Guy Bourdin’s son, filed legal action against Madonna, director Mondino, as well as Warner Bros and MTV for the distribution of work that violated his copyrights. Madonna settled the issue out of court in May, 2004.

  • art_direct_OR

    The video may be ripped off (and/or) inspired by LaChapelle’s work. But, the color schemes from LaChapelle’s work definitely resembles Milton Bradley’s “Candy Land” game, AND the overall style reminds me of Peder Pedersen’s “Barbie Girl” music video for Aqua. In my opinion, LaChapelle’s work itself is NOT that original to begin with to win a case against Rihanna.

  • Procastinator

    Seriously D. LaChapelle??? Is it that crucial?

  • Aaron Bendele

    The music video director Kevin Kerslake sued Nirvana for the Anton Corbjin directed music video of “Heart Shaped Box”. Granted, Kerslake had directed a few of their previous videos and had written several treatments for HSB but they ended up going with a Corbijn. It was settled out of court.

    So yeah, Duncan Kinney, you can sue over visual ideas. You may not be able to “copyright” them, but you can certainly sue and win.

  • musicsoul

    Check the video “Only girl in the world” by Rihanna.. It has almost identical shots as Ryan Mcginley photo’s..

  • Michael

    Seems like a pretty lame lawsuit to me, everyone draws inspiration from other sources.

  • Edward Olive Fotografo de boda

    Personally laChapelle is not to my taste but at least he’s original not like the idiot that made the video. Art is thinking for yourself not doing cheap copies

  • Mark Van J

    If you don’t want to inspire people and share your ideas with others, why bother? Keep your precious pictures to yourself and lock them away. People who KNOW, will know who inspired who. This is just a matter of greed and ego mixed with art. This just makes him look like a crybaby…

  • Twist

    Vaseline did a nude commercial a few years back. Total rip off of Spencer Tunick.

    These cases are always really difficult to prove and win. Couldn’t Rihanna just claim she’s making a parody of LaChapelle’s work?

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  • Tucker Prescott

    Although i think the argument is silly, it’s quite interesting to see the difference in quality between the actual photographs and the shots from the music video. It’s incredible how much more work and imagination was put into the photo-shoot than the video.

  • Artexpo Studio

    There is a difference between being inspired by something/someone and then using some variation of an idea to create your own unique piece of art instead of directly copying it and putting your name on it. There is always a fine line, but she should have credited him or at the very least informed him she was doing it. 

  • Maggie

    As a pro photographer, I have to put my two cents in here. The video is not just one shot and then explored further, it is a series of shots. This is not capitalizing on a creative idea. This is THEFT of an idea. If you are inspired by an image, you should take the concept and completely rework it, not copy everything about it. This is not Rihanna’s fault, the fault lays with the creative team. You can wait 50 years and copyright is no longer, then you can do a recreation. This is unfair to LaChapelle because he CREATED his own look. I know a LaChapelle when I see one, so yes it’s his style and she stole a bunch of consecutive images. Guilty as charged.

  • Kyoshinikon

    It is intellectual theft based on the evidence. The environments were created by the photographer (not pre existing) and were almost fully duplicated (with tiny modifications like the pattern on the wallpaper) by the visual team. In addition several of the scenes are uncannily close to work by just David LaChapelle, not just one…

    The magenta room (bad screenshot by petapixel) is almost identical to the one David has with only minor variations to patterns and furniture

  • Fenix Fotography

    Except that Warhol was sued for copyright and trademark infringement numerous times (and rightly so). He settled all cases out of court.

  • Fenix Fotography

    Definitely a rip off of Paulus and LaChapelle. Rihanna settled out of court, so she basically admitted it without creating a citable legal precedent. Damn.

  • elfey

    I have to agree as a photographer I would find this irritating also, there’s a difference between being inspired and stealing many aspects of works of art. Tssk tssk tssk, whoever was responsible for the idea to use the same imagery, shame on you.

  • Anton Berlin

    I invented the country music video where a girl in the crowd makes eye contact with the country singer and slowly saunters up to the stage. I’m going to be RICH!