On Tuesday (June 15), Jay-Z filed a lawsuit against Jonathan Mannion — the photographer behind the cover photo of his 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt — over the use of his likeness in pictures and other merchandise sold without permission.
The Billboard chart-topper, neé Shawn Carter, alleges that Mannion and Jonathan Mannion Photography LLC exploited his name and image to sell products and gain profit without his consent.
Jay-Z is asking that Mannion discontinue the use of his name and likeness. The rapper is also seeking “compensatory damages, consequential damages, lost profits, and/or disgorgement of Mannion’s profits.”
According to court papers obtained by Billboard, the lawsuit states that it’s “ironic that a photographer would treat the image of a formerly-unknown Black teenager, now wildly successful, as a piece of property to be squeezed for every dollar it can produce. It stops today.”
The claim alleges that Mannion’s use of Jay-Z’s likeness is in violation of the star’s common law privacy rights.
Mannion’s attorney, Sara Hsia, responded to the new lawsuit in a statement to Billboard.
“Mr. Mannion has created iconic images of Mr. Carter over the years and is proud that these images have helped to define the artist that Jay-Z is today,” Hsia said. “Mr. Mannion has the utmost respect for Mr. Carter and his body of work, and expects that Mr. Carter would similarly respect the rights of artists and creators who have helped him achieve the heights to which he has ascended.
“We are confident that the First Amendment protects Mr. Mannion’s right to sell fine art prints of his copyrighted works, and will review the complaint and respond in due course.”
A rep for Jay-Z had not yet responded to Billboard’s request for comment.
Released by Roc-A-Fella Records and Priority Records in June 1996, Reasonable Doubt is Jay-Z’s debut studio album. It peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard 200 on July 12, 1996 and and charted for 18 weeks.