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Jay-Z Sues Photographer Jonathan Mannion For Profiting Off His Likeness

Jay-Z (left) and hip-hop photographer Jonathan Mannion (right)

Jay-Z has filed a lawsuit against hip-hop photographer Jonathan Mannion, accusing Mannion of profiting off the rapper’s likeness without permission.

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According to legal documents obtained by Rolling Stone, Jay-Z, née Shawn Carter, hired Mannion in the mid-Nineties as a photographe who took “hundreds of photographs” of the rapper.

One of those photographs — the rapper clad in a suit and hat holding a cigar — became the cover for Jay-Z’s landmark 1996 debut, “Reasonable Doubt”.

The lawsuit, however, states that while Mannion was compensated for his work, “Jay-Z never gave Mannion permission to resell any of the images. Nor did Jay-Z authorize Mannion to use his name, likeness, identity, or persona for any purpose.” Because Carter never gave Mannion his permission to sell these photos, the suit claims, “Mannion has no legal right to do so.”

Carter has asked Mannion to stop selling photos of him, but the photographer refused. Instead, the photographer demanded that Jay-Z pay him tens of millions of dollars, the lawsuit claims.

According to the lawsuit, Mannion “prominently displays a photograph of Jay-Z” on his website’s homepage, while he also sells so-called “Fame Wall” T-shirts, which display Jay-Z’s name… above other well-known artists that he has photographed.

Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt” album cover was photographed by Jonathan Mannion | Image: Genius

Additionally, the suit includes several photographs that Mannion took of Carter — including the Reasonable Doubt cover — and states that Mannion sells prints of these pictures on his website for thousands of dollars.

The suit levels two claims for relief at Mannion, one in violation of a California Civil Code for allegedly “misappropriating and using for commercial purposes Jay-Z’s name, likeness, identity, and persona” without permission. And another for violating California common law regarding rights of publicity. Carter is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction that would require Mannion and his associates to stop using his likeness. Carter is also seeking unspecified damages.

A legal representative for Jonathan Mannion offered the following statement to Pitchfork:

“Mr. Mannion has created iconic images of Mr. Carter over the years, and is proud that these images have helped to define the artist that Jay-Z is today. Mr. Mannion has the utmost respect for Mr. Carter and his body of work, and expects that Mr. Carter would similarly respect the rights of artists and creators who have helped him achieve the heights to which he has ascended.

We are confident that the First Amendment protects Mr. Mannion’s right to sell fine art prints of his copyrighted works, and will review the complaint and respond in due course.”

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Jay-ZShawn Carter
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