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David LaChapelle Sues Rihanna, Misses Point of Art

Feb 15, 2011

David LaChapelle is suing Rhianna for too closely copying his photos in her video for S&M.

Picture 64 David LaChapelle Sues Rihanna, Misses Point of Art

Where is the line between homage and plagiarism? Photographer David LaChapelle thinks he’s found it. But he probably hasn’t.

The Daily Mail this morning points out that the legendary fashion photographer is suing Rihanna over her video for “S&M” because some of the scenes too closely resemble still photographs he published in “Vogue”—some of them 9 years ago.

LaChapelle’s lawsuit is likely a fool’s errand. Sure, the frozen stills look similar. But you can’t go around suing someone every time your art inspires them to try something similar in a different format. Was Weezer sued by the creators of “Happy Days” for referencing its mise-en-scene in the video for “Buddy Holly?” Did Keith Richards sue Johnny Depp for using his image and likeness as an inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates of the Carribean” movies?

LaChapelle himself tweeted “The next time you make a David LaChapelle music video you should probably hire David LaChapelle.” Beyond the incalculable obnoxiousness of referring to yourself in the third person, I guess it’s a valid complaint that LaChapelle does direct music videos himself, and you could make the point that these images are ones he would have wanted to reference in his own videos. But he still can.

When The Verve was famously sued by the Rolling Stones for sampling their music without permission in their single “Bittersweet Symphony,” it was because they actually used the Stones’ music, not because they made something that sounded a little symphony.

I’ll conclude by referencing Bill Maher and hoping that he won’t sue me: New rule, if Madonna can’t sue over Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” sounding exactly like “Express” yourself, David LaChapelle can’t sue Rihanna for referencing his photos in her music video.

Take a look for Perez Hilton below, being walked on a leash by Rihanna, and peeing on a fire hydrant:

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