Rihanna, LaChappelle, and Copyright
Is Rihanna's New Racy "S and M" Video Substantially Similar to David LaChappelle's Famed Photography?
Tabloid darling and pop singer Rihanna is being sued for $1 Million for copyright infringement by famed photographer David LaChapelle for allegedly copying eight photographs in her new racy and provocative "S and M" music video. LaChapelle claims that Rihanna copied the "composition, total concept, feel, tone, mood, theme, colors, props, settings, decors, wardrobe, and lighting" from "eight photographs conceived and created" by him.
To prove copyright infringement, LaChapelle would have to successfully establish: (1) ownership of a valid copyright in the photographs; and (2) that Rihanna copied protected elements of his photographs. The hallmark standard for proving infringement is the "substantial similarity" test. In which case, the similarities between the two works need not be literal or exactly identical. It only requires that the works would be perceived as aesthetically close, despite a few disparities, to the ordinary person. Here, LaChapelle likely has valid copyright ownership in the eight photographs. As for the second prong, however, that is up for debate.
Does Rihanna's new video pass the substantial similarity test? You can decide for yourself. Check out the images here.