When Rihanna’s video for “S&M” first came out, I assumed that famed fashion/commercial/art photog David LaChapelle had somehow had a hand in it. I also assumed Dave was getting lazy, as it recycled numerous concepts from past photoshoots he’d done. But when Dave tweeted “The next time you make a David LaChapelle video you should probably hire David LaChapelle” (since deleted), I realized he had not. Uh oh.
Now, the photographer is suing the pop star, her label Def Jam, and director Melina Matsoukas for copying several images of his in the kinky clip. The case has been given the go ahead by a New York judge, and a pretrial date has been set for August 10.
Via The Telegraph:
The suit claims that eight of LaChapelle’s images were copied in the video and the “composition, total concept, feel, tone, mood, theme, colours, props, settings, decors, wardrobe and lighting” mimicked his work.
The court agreed that the video’s ‘pink room scene’, which shows Rihanna dominating a man in front of pink and white striped walls, was very similar to LaChapelle’s famous ‘Striped Face’ photograph and also pinpointed a scene where Rihanna is against a blue background wearing pink latex and placing a sweet on her tongue.
LaChapelle, who says he’s a fan of Rihanna and that the case is “not personal, it’s strictly business”, is suing for unspecified damages adding that “Musicians commonly pay to sample music or use someone’s beats and there should be no difference when sampling an artist’s visuals.”
This seems reasonable enough, no? I mean, there’s certainly a difference between being inspired by someone and straight-up copying them, but this seems to lean towards the latter. It’s especially glaring when the original images are as unique, twisted and hallucinatory as LaChapelle’s. ONTD made a side-by-side comparison (below) of LaChapelle’s photos with several shots from the video, and it seems pretty damning. Then again, in this wacky, postmodern age, is it even possible to claim ownership over an idea once you’ve released it into the world? What do you think?