Versace is being sued over photos of Jennifer Lopez. The American arm of the famed Italian design house has been slapped with a copyright infringement lawsuit for posting two photos on its highly-followed Instagram account of the musician-slash- actress in head-to-toe Versace at an MTV Video Music Awards after party this summer without licensing the photos or otherwise seeking and receiving photographer Robert Barbera’s authorization to do so.
According to Barbera’s complaint, which was filed on Monday in a New York federal court, Versace “willfully, intentionally, and purposefully, in disregard of and indifference to [his] rights … infringed [his] copyright in the photographs by reproducing and publicly displaying [them] on [Instagram].” As it turns out, “Versace is not, and has never been, licensed or otherwise authorized to reproduce, publicly display, distribute and/or use the photographs” of Lopez, a longtime friend of the brand, who made headlines after attending the Grammy Awards in February 2000 in a plunging green Versace silk chiffon dress.
Versace also allegedly “falsified, removed and/or altered the copyright management information” of the photos – i.e., Barbera’s name and/or watermark, etc. – before posting them in August 2018 in order to “conceal [its] infringement of [Barbera’s] copyright in the photographs.” In the process, the photo was viewed by a portion of Versace’s 17.5 million Instagram users and “received 135,994 likes.”
As a result of “the wrongful conduct of Versace,” Splash News photographer Barbera has asked the court to determine that Versace has infringed his copyrights in the photos of Lopez, for which he maintains registrations with the U.S. Copyright Office, and to award him a monetary sum of either “the damages that he sustained and will sustain, and any gains, profits and advantages obtained by Versace because of [its] violations,” or a sum of at least $2,500 up to $25,000 for each violation, whichever is greater.
The lawsuit is the latest in a string of copyright cases centering on the use of celebrity imagery by brands and in some cases, the celebrities, themselves. Currently underway in the same jurisdiction as the Versace matter is the copyright case that photo agency Xclusive-Lee filed against supermodel Gigi Hadid for posting a photo of herself on her Instagram account without license or permission for the copyright-holding agency. That case comes on the heels of since-settled proceedings involving Khloe Kardashian, Odell Backham, Jr., Jessica Simpson, IMG Models, and designer Jonathan Simkhai.
*The case is Robert Barbera v. Versace USA, Inc., 1:19-cv-03563 (SDNY).