British multinational retailer, Topshop is being sued by none other than Barbadian singer Rihanna. The mega star triumphs over the Arcadia Group retailer in a case where she claims that the brand tried to “pass off,” or attempts to pass off the garments as being approved by her. Topshop has initially disputed the lawsuit stating that they legally purchased the image from the photographer who took it. According to British law, if the image is purchased legally through a third party, then a business is free to use it without paying the artist any licensing fees. The law in the U.S., however, differs. The shirts were only sold in the U.K.
High Court Justice Colin Birss rules the suit in Rihanna’s favor after a hearing in London. Birss stated that Topshop’s sale of the Rihanna garment with the singer’s face is a copyright infringement and acts as a “false belief” that a substantial amount of buyers will most likely assume is endorsed by the singer. Judge Birss also states that consumers may conjecture a false representation from the use of her image, therefore damaging to her “own merchandise” and leading to a loss of control over her reputation in the fashion sphere. Rihanna says that Topshop has misled her customers which led to consumer confusion and damages to her reputation. Justice Birss’s decision is determined by the premises of intellectual property. The misuse of her image on a garment can lead to diminishing sales to her merchandising business. The image was pulled from Rihanna’s “We Found Love” music video, as well as, being one of the images used in her album CD sleeves.Although approval is given on the behalf of the photographer who shot the photograph, the permission of image for the mass-produced garment has not been granted by the artist.
The litigation began more than a year ago but conclusively Judge Birss ruled in Rihanna’s favor. He concluded that it is solely up to Rihanna and her management to decide what products are to be and not to be endorsed by retailers. This decision brings awareness to the fast-charter fashion industry and its predilection for other celeb-based garments.
Text + photo reference via NY Mag and BBC News