American hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar is the latest artist to face a lawsuit over alleged plagiarism. On this occasion the claim against Lamar isn’t that he has ripped off someone else’s music. It is Lamar’s use of a photograph on the cover of one of his single releases that is at issue. The photograph in question was used on the cover of Lamar’s single “The Blacker The Berry,” released in February from Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly album.
According to Pitchfork, photographer Giordano Cipriani took the photograph used on the cover of Lamar’s single during a trip to Africa in 2011. The picture features a mother breast-feeding two babies, and Cipriani alleges that Lamar has used the image without his permission and that he failed to license the image.
Hot New Hip Hop report that Cipriani filed a lawsuit with the New York Federal Court on July 10. Cipriani has asked for an injunction to stop Lamar from using his image. He is also suing Lamar, Top Dawg Entertainment, Interscope Records, and Aftermath Entertainment for damages resulting from the unauthorized use of the image.
According to Business Standard, Cipriani makes his living as a freelance photographer and claims that Lamar, his record label, and his management company failed to pay him for the image and failed to license the shot. Cipriani is suing for $150,000 from Lamar for each time the image was used and has also asked for his legal fees to be paid by Lamar. It seems that, as well as using the image on the artwork for the single, Lamar also used it for promotional purposes on YouTube, on his website, and on his Facebook page. If the judge were to find in Cipriani’s favor Lamar could easily be hit with a bill for $750,000.
The issue of plagiarism in the music industry is continually hitting the headlines this year, and Kendrick Lamar is far from the first person to be hit by such a lawsuit. Earlier this year British soul singer Sam Smith was sued by Tom Petty who claimed that Smith’s song “Stay With Me” sounded too similar to Petty’s hit “I Won’t Break Down.”
Lamar’s case isn’t even the first to highlight difficulties between musicians and photographers. In recent weeks there have been high profile spats between musicians and bands over the use of photographs. For example The Guardian reports today that Le Soleilsent a cartoonist rather than a photographer to a Foo Fighters show because the band asked photographers to sign a contract assigning copyright of the image to the band. By tradition, the copyright on photographs belongs to the photographer as soon as the shutter is pressed.
[Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images]