The iconic rock band Guns N’ Roses and their management are soon to end up in court. The band’s longtime photographer, Katarina Benzova, has filed a lawsuit against the band, accusing them of copyright infringement. What’s more, she’s also accused the band manager of sexual abuse.
Benzova has worked with the band since 2010, providing photos for 364 concerts in total. In 2022, she stopped working for the band and filed a lawsuit in November. According to her lawsuit, Guns N’ Roses violated her copyright claims by reproducing, displaying, and selling her photos without her consent. In addition, the band also allegedly altered her images to hide these infringements.
The lawsuit also contains disturbing accusations against the band’s manager, Fernando Lebeis. Benzova claims that Lebeis was persistently bullying, sexually harassing, verbally abusing, and psychologically manipulating her over several years. She further claims that Lebeis cut her pay without informing her. He also allegedly forced her to cover travel costs and placed her in substandard accommodation during tours. Benzova believes that she was targeted for termination, unlike male photographers. According to Benzova, they were treated normally.
As expected, Guns N’ Roses and their management vigorously deny these “categorically and unequivocally false” allegations. The band claims that Benzova signed “work-for-hire” agreements on multiple tours, transferring complete ownership of all photos to Guns N’ Roses. In October, a few weeks before Benzova’s filing, the band preemptively sued Benzova. They argue that her claims to copyright ownership are negated by her signed contracts.
A representative of Guns N’ Roses issued a statement regarding the case. They clarified that the lawsuit only covers the alleged copyright infringement, but not the sexual harassment:
“Ms. Benzova was initially contracted to provide tour photography services for Guns N’ Roses in 2010. She worked with the band for 12 years and was paid and treated extraordinarily well. It was only after her services were discontinued in 2022 that she attempted to claim ownership in photos which her contract clearly states are owned by the band. The band takes these types of claims very seriously however all evidence establishes these accusations are categorically and unequivocally false. This response from her comes after the band initiated suit against Ms. Benzova for falsely asserting ownership in the photos of the band.”
The outcome of the lawsuit between Guns N’ Roses and Benzova depends on various complex factors. These include interpreting “work-for-hire” agreements, the strength of evidence regarding copyright ownership, and allegations of abuse. We mustn’t forget the strategies of legal representation and the influence of jurisdiction and legal precedents. The decision will ultimately depend on the court’s assessment of the agreements, evidence, and legal standards applicable to the case.