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Celebrity photographer Bonnie Schiffman has filed a copyright lawsuit that claims Rod Stewart misused an image she took that adorned the singer’s 1989 greatest hits album as the centerpiece of his comeback tour.
According to a complaint filed Thursday in California federal court, the exploitation of the “replicate image, an unmistakable copy” is impermissible without authorization.
The image was created in 1981, says the lawsuit, and it featured the back of Rod Stewart’s head and shoulders. Stewart’s “signature bouffant hair style” made it memorable and the choice for Stewart’s Storyteller album, released by Warner Bros. Records. The photo was licensed non-exclusively back then. The complaint doesn’t go into any detail about the terms.
The lawsuit states that Arnold Stiefel (Stewart’s agent) contacted her in 2010 with interest in using the image for a billboard for a campaign titled “Rod’s Back,” an obvious double entendre. But he was allegedly only offering $1,500, which Schiffman rejected.
Now, she’s upset upon seeing an image that looks like the one she took as the “centerpiece” of his new Las Vegas show. She also identifies photos on ancillary products that are said to have “misappropriated the most recognizable elements of the Schiffman Image, if not the exact image itself.”
She’s seeking injunctive relief and not less than $2.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
“One of Rod Stewart’s greatest hits is called ‘Every Picture Tells A Story,’ and certainly this one does,” says William Hochberg, Schiffman’s attorney at Hallam & Hochberg. “Bonnie Schiffman’s picture of Rod’s back announces his comeback better than any other. That’s why they’re using it. But turning their back on their obligation to license the picture before splashing it all over Caesars Palace and elsewhere is not a pretty story and its unlawful.”
Stewart’s reps haven’t yet responded to a request for comment.
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