February 15, 2012 2:00pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Photographer Sues Quincy Jones Claiming Picture Used Without Permission (Exclusive)
It must be strange to look at a photograph of yourself and maybe not own rights to the image. Quincy Jones is now being sued by a photographer who claims the legendary music producer is using without permission a photograph of Jones at work to advertise a signature line of headphones and in a book about the producer's approach to music.
The copyright infringement claim comes from Michael Donald Jones, who says that he was invited to a West Hollywood special recording session in 1995 that featured Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock and other famous musicians. The plaintiff says he was allowed to take photographs there without signing a release beforehand. Afterwards, Michael Jones says he gave Quincy 8''x10'' prints and was allegedly told he would only get paid if he handed over rights. He says that this effort to "strong-arm" him failed. The parties weren't able to agree on a price.
Flash forward 15 years.
At a social gathering in 2010, Michael Jones (presumably no relation to Quincy) was shown an image and asked if he had taken the photo. Although the photographer says he took thousands of photographs during the 1995 recording session, he says he "immediately recognized the work as his own."
According to the lawsuit, Michael Jones was then asked to be a "team player" by handing over rights. Thereafter, the photographer and representatives for Jones and the headphone company, AKG Harman, haggled over a price, but supposedly came to no agreement. Later, the law firm of Loeb & Loeb sent letters to Michael Jones on behalf of Quincy, allegedly acting as if the photog had made a deal. Included with the letter was a check for $6,500, which the plaintiff says he didn't cash.
Quincy Jones, who recently shared with The Hollywood Reporter some of his favorite photographs from his career, is said to have used the image in dispute in promoting headphones called "The Quincy Jones Signature Line" as well as the book, The Quincy Jones Legacy Series: Q on Producing.
The photograph was allegedly made available on websites including YouTube, Facebook, and several retailers and offered as a free download through AKG's website. The defendants also purportedly distributed it as a 13'' x 17 '' poster for customers.
Interestingly, the defendants didn't use an exact duplicate. Instead, they "altered the photograph by inverting it," showing Quincy looking in one direction when in reality he was looking in another.
Here's a look.
Quincy Jones, AKG Harman, Hal Leonard Books, and others are being sued for "maximum allowable statutory damages." The photographer is also demanding profits be turned over and that the impounding and destruction of all copies of the photograph be made.
Quincy couldn't be reached for comment.