THE FASHION LAW EXCLUSIVE – Michael Miller has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Kendall and Kylie Jenner in connection with their uber-controversial vintage tees. Miller, who is the copyright holder of two photos depicting Tupac Shakur, has worked with some of the most iconic 90’s supermodels, photographed hundreds of major-label album covers from all genres of music from Tupac, Nick Cave to Herb Albert.
According to his complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Friday, Miller alleges the famed reality television sisters “have misappropriated and wrongfully exploited” two copyright-protected photos without his authorization, thereby giving rise to copyright infringement claims.
An association with the Jenners – “internet and reality television personalities who are known for their ostentations displays of wealth on social media” – and specifically Kendall, is “particularly problematic [for Miller] given that she was complicit in not one but two of the worst public relations disasters in recent memory,” says Miller’s complaint, referring to her Pepsi commercial and her involvement in promoting Fyre Festival.
Miller further claims that “at no time [did he seek] to associate his work with Kendall or Kylie or any of their companies.”
In an earlier article we told you that the pair released a collection of legally questionable band tees where either Kendall, Kylie, or the initials of the brand “KK” was screen-printed atop the album covers and photos of artists, including Tupac, Biggie Smalls, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and others.
Shortly after their release, the families (and in the case of The Doors, the manager) of those featured on the tees, as well as their millions of fans, began speaking out against the tees, describing the stunt to be “exploitative” and “disgusting.”
Within 24 hours, an array of cease and desist letters were issued to the Kendall + Kylie brand, and the tees were pulled from production. Further, in hopes of minimizing the potential damage the stunt caused, the pair issued a statement via Twitter apologizing for offending the fans and families of the artists.
Miller is seeking statutory damages in an amount up to $150,000 per copyrighted image, and alleges that he “is entitled to disgorgement of Defendants’ profits directly and indirectly attributable to Defendants’ infringement of his rights in the Photographs, in an amount to be established at trial. ”
According to a statement provided exclusively to TFL by Miller’s counsel, Scott Alan Burroughs, Esq: “Mr. Miller’s artwork is very personal and extremely important to him as a creator. When someone exploits his work without even telling him, let alone obtaining his authorization, it damages not only the value of the work buthis ability to make a living as an artist. And, as a society, we want to ensure that it is the artist who benefits when their work used commercially,as this is not only fair, but enables the creation of new art. When aninfringer misappropriates an artist’s work and exploits it for profit, the artist is left with no choice but to enforce their rights.”
* The case is Michael Miller v. Kendall Jenner, Inc., et. al., 2:17-cv-04992 (C.D.Cal).