Artist Sara Pope is taking copyright action against Kylie Jenner over the bright neon lips seen in a trailer for the star's new reality series, which premiered in May 2017. According to London-based Pope’s suit, which was filed on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, against Jenner, NBCUniversal, and E!, among others, Jenner and co. copied Pope’s Temptation Neon artwork “for their own profit—without consent, credit, or compensation.”
According to Pope’s suit, she “has been painting for more than a decade, and her work has been featured in art galleries in Singapore, Japan, Brazil, and across the United Kingdom, as well as in New York art fairs. Prints of her work are sold in Los Angeles.” As such, Pope says that she “depends on her art to earn a living. And the copyright protection her work enjoys deters would-be thieves from copying and profiting from her work without her permission.”
(Note: A copyright owner has the exclusive right to publish, copy or otherwise reproduce the protected work; to distribute the work publicly; and to perform or display the work. Holding a copyright also gives you the exclusive right to prepare derivative works, which are works of art based on or derived from one or more preexisting works).
Pope alleges that she “finished work on Temptation Neon shortly before October 2015, when the work was published,” and “as Temptation Neon’s popularity grew, so too did the incentive to copy.”
Enter Defendant Kylie Jenner, who, according to the lawsuit “is an Instagram star, who earned approximately $3.6 million from sponsored posts on the social media website in 2016, and on average, her Instagram posts generate 1.75 million engagements. Forbes has estimated that a sponsored post on Kylie’s social media would be worth at least $200,000.”
The suit claims that “despite her prominent status, Kylie Jenner’s record of copyright infringement lawsuits is alarming,” and goes on to cite Jenner’s alleged copying of Los Angeles-based makeup artist Vlada Haggerty and of the photos associated with Kendall and Kylie Jenner’s controversial vintage t-shirt collection.
“In addition to appearing on websites operated by Defendants,” the lawsuit states, “the trailer featuring the unauthorized copies of Ms. Pope’s work has been posted to Kylie Jenner’s Twitter feed.” The complaint further claims that Jenner and co. “are building their brand and goodwill at Ms. Pope’s expense.”
In reaching out to the defendants to call attention to the similarities between Pope’s work and Jenner’s version, Pope was shot down. Her lawsuit states that despite “the obvious similarity between Temptation Neon and the unauthorized version that appears in promotional advertising for ‘Life of Kylie,’ Defendant The Mill Group [was engaged by NBCU to produce the promotional material featuring unauthorized versions of Temptation Neon] insists that all similarities are ‘coincidental only.’”
In addition to setting forth claims of copyright infringement and unfair competition (the latter of which prohibits “any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice” that results in economic injury), Pope’s complaint seeks injunctive relief - which would require that the defendants immediately and permanently cease all use of the allegedly infringing artwork - and monetary damages.
The suit joins a rather long list of instances in which the reality television family has been the subject of copying allegations both in and out of court. See that list here.
And on a final note, it is interesting - although not surprising - that Pope's complaint does not make mention of the lookalike imagery associated with the "Rocky Horror Picture Show," which predates Popes and maintains an array of copyright registrations for the lips artwork associated with its film. Pope's application for copyright registration is, in fact, still pending before the U.S. Copyright Office.
* The case is Sara Pope, v. The Mill Group Inc.; Kylie Jenner; NBCUniversal Media, LLC; E! Entertainment Television, LLC, 2:17-cv-05481 (C.D.Cal).