Caesars Palace Bankruptcy Puts $5M Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against Rod Stewart On Hold

Jan 29, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

Caesars Palace Bankruptcy Puts $5M Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against Rod Stewart On Hold

Jan 29, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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One of the most intriguing photo-related copyright infringement lawsuits in recent years has been put on hold due to a bankruptcy protection request.

Rod Stewart and the other defendants have avoided an appearance in court, for the time being, following Caesars Palace filing for Chapter 11 earlier this month.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the case details, here’s the gist of it:

  • 1981 – Photographer Bonnie Schiffman photographed Rod Stewart from behind, showing the back of his head (with his signature hair style) and shoulders.
  • 1989 – A cropped version of the photo is licensed to Stewart, non-exclusively, to appear on the cover of his greatest hits album, “Storyteller”.
Comparison_1
Schiffman’s licensed photo (left) and the new photo used by Stewart (right). Source: court documents
  • 2010 – Stewart’s manager, Arnold Stiefel, contacted Schiffman stating the singer would like to use her photo in a billboard campaign called “Rod’s Back” – referring to his comeback as well as the photo itself.
  • 2013 – A licensing fee of $1500 was offered for the billboard usage. Schiffman declined the offer for being too low. Stiefel refused to increase the offer and stated that another photograph will be obtained instead.
  • 2013 – Schiffman learned that a photo extremely similar to hers was being used to promote Stewart’s residence show at Caesars Palace. The new image, claimed to be a replicate, was used at live performances, on print advertising, tickets and online marketing.
Comparison_2
The uncropped version. The original photo from 1981 (left) and the new photo used by Stewart (right). Source: court documents
  • March 2014 – Schiffman’s lawyers sent a cease and desist letter “requesting that they account for all of their usages and pay a fair license fee therfor”.
  • September 2014 – Schiffman filed her lawsuit against Stewart, Stiefel, Caesars Palace and several other companies at a California District court.

According to MyNewLA.com, the District court is to be given an update regarding the Chapter 11 case every 120 days.

This is the second copyright infringement case we’ve covered this week where it seems that a replicate image was created in order tocut expenses. While Nike would have had to pay a larger amount of money to prevent the Air Jordan logo lawsuit, it seems that in this case paying just a few thousand Dollars more could potentially save millions.

I explained some of the benefits of registering your photos with the Copyright Office in the Nike/Air Jordan case, with a main benefit being the ability to file for statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

As Schiffman was smart enough to register her copyright, and due to the claims above, her demands include the following:

  • Compensatory damages in a sum of not less than $2,500,000
  • Punitive damages in a sum of not less than $2,500,000
  • Actual damages and any profits attributable to the infringement of her copyright
  • Statutory damages
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Further relief as the court may deem just and proper

Obviously the defendants will also have to stop using the replicate photo.

It is entirely possible that the defendants did not know that creating a similar photo could be a violation of the photographer’s copyright. That being said, I’m sure that a ruling sending a hefty sum of money Schiffman’s way will make a lot more people bother to learn a bit about copyright laws before they try to save a few bucks.

[via MyNewsLA.com]

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Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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4 responses to “Caesars Palace Bankruptcy Puts $5M Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against Rod Stewart On Hold”

  1. Rick Avatar
    Rick

    So if I go take a photo of the back side of every celebrity’s head and register that photo, no one else can ever take another photo of any of them from the back side? That’s total BS. Unlike the Nike case where the photographer created the signature move, she created nothing. The hair was already Rod’s signature and the usage of the photo on the cover that made it famous was also someone else’s doing. If anything, the person who created/designed the album cover has more of a claim than she does.

  2. pilgrimsoldier Avatar
    pilgrimsoldier

    I have no problem with the plaintiff taking them to court given what appears to be an obvious attempt to replicate the image.

    However, many of us draw inspiration from other photographers and end up producing very similar images to each other. At what point could someone take us to court for infringement should we sell an image that is remarkably similar to another persons.

    In this instance couldn’t a person who had previously taken a photo of Rod Stewart’s back claim that the Schiffmann had actually copied their idea in the first place? There would be no winners in the long run!

  3. 3rdStoneMan Avatar
    3rdStoneMan

    Mr. Harrison said it best, its the “Sue Me Sue You Blues”.

  4. AtlantaTerry Avatar
    AtlantaTerry

    WHAT??? To me, this case is as dumb as the decision in England where one can not take a photograph of one of a red double decker bus on a bridge.
    http://azrights.com/media/uncategorized/2013/11/photographers-photography-copyright-and-the-red-bus-case/