Fashion models and burgeoning young fashion brands are not the only ones landing on the receiving end of lawsuits for using others photos without permission, Fendi is, too. The LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned Italian luxury brand was named in a copyright infringement complaint this week after the brand published an image of Blake Lively in January wearing a mustard yellow look from its Spring/Summer 2020 collection on Facebook and Instagram that is “owned and registered by Eva’s Photography, a professional photography company” without the company’s authorization.
According to the complaint that New York-based Eva’s Photography filed in a New York federal court on Thursday, its suit against Fendi “arises out of [the brand’s] unauthorized reproduction and public display of a copyrighted photograph of actress Blake Lively arriving at the Good Morning America show in New York” in January.
Much like nearly all of the other paparazzi-filed infringement lawsuits, which have flooded court dockets with marked frequency in recent years, Eva’s alleges that while it is “the sole owner of all right, title and interest in and to the Photograph, including the copyright,” Fendi, nonetheless, “posted the photograph on [social media] as tool to promote its brand and clothing” without licensing it from Eva’s or otherwise “receiving permission or consent to publish it.”
As such, Eva’s claims that Fendi ran afoul of its exclusive right as the copyright holder to “reproduce, publicly display, distribute and/or use the photograph,” and asserts that the “foregoing acts of infringement by Fendi, [which] have been willful, intentional, and purposeful, in disregard of and indifference to [Eva’s] rights,” entitle the photo company to “statutory damages up to $150,000 per [infringed] work” or the actual damages that Eva’s suffered as a result of such alleged infringement.
Not exactly the first time that a high fashion brand has been called out for co-opting another’s photo(s) in order to promote its pricey products, fellow LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned brand Christian Dior is currently facing litigation for “knowingly copying” two photos from an influencer Instagram account, which it allegedly “featured in one or more of its lookbooks, including on the cover of at least one lookbook … for its own commercial gain.” That is what Swedishandstylish LLC claims in the copyright infringement lawsuit that it filed against the Paris-based brand – whose parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton generated nearly $60 billion in revenue in 2019 – in a New York federal court in March.
The allegations set forth by both Eva’s and Swedishandstylish LLC mirror some of the claims that many street style photographers have set forth over the years in connection with some of the fashion industry’s well-established entities. According to no shortage of reports in recent years, many big-name brands have a long-standing practice of using influencer-centric imagery taken during the various fashion weeks, in particular, on their own social media pages and website, albeit without licensing the images from the respective photographers and/or their agencies.
The lawsuits at hand also come against a growing background of paparazzi lawsuits that are being waged against celebrities, brands, and models, alike.
*The case is Eva’s Photography, Inc. v. Fendi North America, Inc., 1:20-cv-03331 (SDNY).