Rihanna Replaces Her Lawyer After Setback in 'S&M' Copyright Lawsuit

Is Rihanna begging for mercy after being whipped by famed photographer David LaChapelle in round one of a lawsuit accusing her of copying his photographs in the music video "S&M"? The pop star has replaced her lawyer in the case, and there are indications that the dispute may be on a track towards settlement.

In February, LaChapelle sued alleging that eight scenes in "S&M" were directly lifted from his work.

Here's one example: A side-by-side photo of a scene from Rihanna's music video (left) and LaChappelle's work (right):

Picture 5

The lawsuit survived the first hurdle when a New York federal judge in July allowed LaChapelle's main claim for copyright infringement to proceed forward. The judge ruled that S&M themes in the video about Rihanna's relationship with the press weren't copyrightable, but that the way LaChapelle had controlled "angles, poses and lighting" in his photos were protectable. Further, the judge heard evidence that the storyboards for the music video contained his photographs and that the two artists had collaborated with each other previously.

The decision put the case on track for trial, but it may not get so far.

After Rihanna lost her motion to dismiss, she terminated her lawyers at New York's Pryor Cashman firm in favor of Paul Kilmer at Holland & Knight.

Now the case has been referred to a magistrate judge for the purpose of settlement. 

Attorneys for both sides haven't responded to a request for comment.

E-mail: eriqgardner@yahoo.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner