September 28, 2011 1:01pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Judge: Bravo's 'Million Dollar Decorators' Won't Cause Irreparable Harm to Photographer
A federal judge in Missouri has denied a photographer's request for an injunction in a lawsuit concerning the Bravo reality series Million Dollar Decorators.
In July, Michael Eastman sued Warner Bros., Bravo owner NBC Universal, and decorator Martyn Lawrence Bullard for allegedly taking one of his famed photographs and enlarging it to become the "pièce de résistance" in episode 5 of the series.
Bravo's Million Dollar Decorators offers a look at high-end interior designers who spruce up the homes of celebrities. In the episode in question, one of Eastman's photographs entitled "Isabella Two Chairs, 1999" became an object for the living room of model/actress Daisy Fuentes.
Eastman claimed that after Bullard sought permission to use the photo, he originally gave it in the form of a Clearance Agreement. But the plaintiff alleges that the waiver did not cover the version of the photo that was then used on the show. According to the photographer, Bullard found a color photo on the Internet and took it to Warner Bros, where a "special image-enlargement machine" was used to create a 15 feet tall and 8 feet wide reproduction.
Examining the issue of whether Bravo should pull the episode in question from distribution, US District Court Judge Henry Edward Autrey found that Eastman hadn't offered sufficient evidence that he would succeed on the merits of the case. "At most, Plaintiffs show that there may be a genuine issue regarding the scope of the permission granted in the Clearance Agreement," wrote the judge in an opinion issued last week.
The judge also counted Eastman's non-appearance in court as evidence the series hadn't harmed the commercial value of his art.
According to the opinion, Eastman didn't show up during a hearing to argue the preliminary injunction because the photo in dispute was involved in a "major exhibition" at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
"In light of this, it would appear that the appearance of The Work in the Bravo series hardly crippled the control of his art and reputation," wrote the judge.