Rihanna Suffers Setback in 'S&M' Music Video Lawsuit
Rihanna Suffers Setback in 'S&M' Music Video Lawsuit

Can a music video infringe the copyright on a still photo?

Pop star Rihanna's music video "S&M" is continuing to create quite a stir among photographers.

In February, David LaChappelle sued the singer and her record labels for infringing the copyright on some of his photographs. Now, the singer is also being pursued by another photographer, Phiipp Paulus, who is making similar allegations.

The music video "S&M" portrays Rihanna's sadomasochist relationship with the press with images like blogger Perez Hilton on a leash like a dog. In one scene, Rihanna wears a big dress, up against the wall with huge plastic in front of her, with X's all around.

German photographer Paulus believes that image was appropriated from his own photographic series, "Paperworld."

Here's a side-by-side comparison:


In February, LaChappelle made the same sort of allegations, suing for copyright infringement. The photographer claimed that eight of his images for past Vogue Italia photo shoots had been used by Rihanna. The photographer alleged that the music video was directly derived from the "composition, total concept, feel, tone, mood, theme, colors, props, settings, decors, wardrobe and lighting" of his photographs.

For example, the image of a doggy Perez Hilton is alleged to be a copy of LaChappelle's work:

Portishead

In moving to dismiss the complaint, Rihanna and the defendant record labels argued that LaChapelle was "effectively trying to monopolize an entire subject matter or genre in two different mediums, i.e., still and motion picture formats."

The defendants add that there can be no finding of substantial similarity because the nature of the two artistic mediums are vastly different.

"The Eight Stills, by their nature, present posed images frozen in place; the angle, lighting and subject of each image is forever static and unchanging," say the defendants in their brief to the court. "In contrast, the Video is a motion picture set to music -- moving at a frantic pace, with the camera and subjects constantly in motion, and the lighting, focus and angle of the shots continually changing. The only thing in common between the Eight Stills and the Video is that they invoke common concepts and types of props associated with S&M practices...but which are given dissimilar expression."