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Image: Fenty

Rihanna is on the receiving end of a new lawsuit that centers on a video she posted on Instagram this spring to promote her FENTY fashion brand. According to the complaint that Arish Ahmad Khan, who is professionally known as King Khan, and Sabaa Louise Ahmad Khan, better known as Saba Lou, filed in a California federal court on Tuesday, Rihanna is on the hook for copyright infringement after allegedly hijacking a song written and recorded by the father-daughter duo plaintiffs, which she used in an “ad” for FENTY.

In the newly-filed complaint, Berlin-based musicians Arish Ahmad Khan and Sabaa Louise Ahmad Khan claim that Rihanna and a number of other defendants that the Khans have “not yet identified, [but] who have infringed [their] copyrights, have contributed to the infringement of [their] copyrights, or have engaged in one or more of the wrongful practices alleged herein,” used a recording of their song, “Good Habits (and Bad),” in “at least one social media video advertisement for FENTY brand accessories,” which  “received extensive engagement, garnering over 3,400,000 views and over 10,000 comments on Instagram.”

Without seeking or receiving their authorization to use the song, Rihanna “willfully copied, reproduced, performed, and distributed significant portions of [their] recording of the song for financial benefit.” By “soundtracking the entire infringing video with portions of [their] song and publishing the same to the public,” and thereby, “creating an infringing derivative work” from the copyright protected (and registered) “composition and recording” of their song, the Khans allege that the musician-slash-fashion/beauty brand owner ran afoul of federal copyright law.” 

Not only did Rihanna and the other unnamed defendants allegedly “obtain direct and indirect profits that they otherwise would not have realized but for their infringement of [the Khans] rights in the song,” such alleged unauthorized use of the song in the video that Rihanna posted to her personal Instagram in May 2020 caused them to suffer “general and special damages.” 

Pointing to the specific requirements to proving copyright infringement, the Khans assert that the defendants, including Rihanna, used an “identical” version of the song and “accessed the song online through a streaming portal,” such as “Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, Deezer, iHeartRadio, or some other source.”

With the foregoing in mind, the Khans claim that the defendants engaged in copyright infringement that was “willful, intentional and malicious, which subjects [them] to liability for statutory damages under Section 504(c)(2) of the Copyright Act in the sum of up to $150,000.00 per infringement and/or a preclusion from asserting certain equitable and other defenses.” 

Beyond Rihanna, herself, the Khans argue that other not-yet-named defendants are on the hook for “knowingly induc[ing], participat[ing] in, aid[ing] and abet[ing] in and profit[ing] from the illegal reproduction and distribution of the song,” including by “publishing a video containing the song obtained from third parties that the defendant(s) knew, or should have known, were not authorized to be published by defendant(s); publishing the infringing video on affiliate, third- party, and social media sites; and distributing the infringing video to third-parties for further publication.” As such, these defendants are “vicariously liable for the infringement” allegedly carried out by Rihanna. 

In addition to monetary damages, the Khans are seeking injunctive relief to bar Rihanna and co. from infringing their copyrights, and “an order requiring the defendants … to remove any content incorporating, in whole or in part, the song from any social media, web, or other publication owned, operated, or controlled by any [of the] defendants.” 

*The case is Arish Ahmad Khan, p/k/a “King Khan”, and Sabaa Louise Ahmad Khan, p/k/a “Saba Lou” v. Robyn Rihanna Fenty, and DOES 1 through 10, 2:20-cv-11555 (C.D.Cal.).