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While much of the recent discussion around Robert Durst emanates from the HBO series The Jinx, the accused killer was also the subject of the Vanity Fair Confidential series from the Investigation Discovery network this year. The latter program has now prompted a copyright lawsuit.
On Friday, photographer Henry Grossman‘s company sued Conde Nast, Discovery Communications and True Entertainment for using three photographs that are nearly 35 years old.
One of the images is of Durst alongside two of his suspected victims: presumed deceased first wife, Kathie Durst, and journalist and family friend Susan Berman. The second photograph shows Berman with an unidentified party guest in 1981. The third shows Berman hugging Durst at this party.
In 2001, Grossman was paid $2,000 by Vanity Fair for use of the photos. A year later, the images appeared in Talk Magazine for an article entitled “What Made Bobby Run.” The lawsuit says that both magazines were owned by Conde Nast, though this seems to be an error. Talk was under the stewardship of former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown, but was actually a magazine run by Hearst.
Nevertheless, the lawsuit produces a copy of a 2001 agreement with Vanity Fair and appears to interpret the contract as a “one-time, non-exclusive, print-only license” for photos. A copy of the license is attached as Exhibit B in the complaint (read here) and could be the key to figuring out whether rights to use the photos were as limited as the plaintiff suggests.
Grossman Enterprises is now seeking statutory damages in the amount of $150,000 for each infringement as well defendant profits and actual damages, which, given the newfound interest in Durst and the pending charges against him for killing Berman, could be worth more now more than ever.
We’ve reached out to for Condé Nast comment.
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