David LaChapelle is best known for his surreal, unique and provocative photographs. LaChapelle has worked with some of the most famous names in the entertainment industry, including Whitney Houston, Kylie Minogue, Paris Hilton, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and many more. LaChapelle’s photographs have been featured in the publications such as Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone and GQ magazine.
Now, LaChapelle has filed a lawsuit against Rihanna and her label for copyright infringement. Specifically, LaChapelle alleges that Rihanna’s clothing, aesthetics, tone and feel in her latest music video for the song “S&M” is LaChapelle-eque. A storyboard used in the video allegedly uses LaChapelle’s photographs without his consent. The court documents cite eight precise frames in the music video that are comparable or similar to LaChapelle’s work. LaChapelle points out that when artists sample other artist’s music, they have to pay, and this case should be no different.
The suit seeks $1 million dollars, which is what LaChapelle generally charges to direct a music video with an artist of this caliber. LaChapelle insists that he likes Rihanna and this lawsuit is nothing personal, just business.
Rihanna’s attorneys have not yet responded to the allegations.
Was this lawsuit a smart move in terms of LaChapelle’s long-term career? How will this affect his image in the music industry? Sure, his claim may have merit and he may even win a significant amount of money out of the ordeal but has he burned a bridge with one of the world’s biggest stars, which could have ultimately brought him many more opportunities to make money?
It seems as though he has the potential to lose out on more than just the lawsuit. After all, the suit may discourage other artists from using LaChapelle inspired photos and sets to avoid a similar situation. It will be interesting to watch how the lawsuit will impact LaChapelle’s career and future employment opportunities.