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Rihanna has filed a $5 million lawsuit against Topshop for selling a tank top bearing her image without compensating her. The tanks were printed with a still from the "We Found Love" video, and the product description on Topshop's U.K. Web site carefully omitted any mention of Rihanna: "Photographic tank with photographic motif of a girl wearing a headscarf." Nothing to see here!
According to a source from Ri-Ri's team, the singer spent eight months trying to negotiate an image-rights fee, but the brand brushed her off. In that side's version of events, Topshop is the corporate equivalent of one of those shady dudes selling bootleg t-shirts from a truck outside the concert.
Rihanna has had a cordial relationship with Topshop founder Philip Green. The two even had lunch together in 2010, sparking rumors that she might be starting a clothing line with the chain. The source close to Rihanna says Topshop offered the singer's management a paltry $5,000. People–especially famous people who are recognizable, and whose images are being used in commercial contexts–have image rights, at least in the U.S. The law is less clear-cut in the U.K., and it's not clear if these tops were ever sold in the U.S. Rihanna has filed suit in London, where Topshop is headquartered:
"What is most offensive for Rihanna is that they basically told her, 'Go to hell. We don't care; we are going to continue selling you.' Topshop is now in the United States. They set up in Manhattan and Nordstrom, but they know better than to do this in the US because they would get in trouble," our source continued.
"Even though the UK laws don't protect the artist, she has decided to move forward and sue Topshop. She has spent almost $1 million in litigation at this point. She says it's the principle, and wants to make a statement about it. They are taking advantage of artists. It is just exploitation. What they are doing is wrong."
Rihanna's image is arguably pretty valuable to a fashion brand. She's been a face of Armani Exchange, and it can hardly be good for Rihanna's face to be all over t-shirts at Topshop while her authorized clothing line is on racks at competitor River Island.
An anonymous source from Topshop would say only, "This issue is related to a T-shirt provided to Topshop by a third-party supplier. We are aware it is the subject of litigation."
— Jenna Sauers
· RiRi Sues Topshop for $5M [NYPost]
· No, this is not a dream: Topshop has made a screen print tank featuring a pic of Rihanna [Style Squeeze]
· Rihanna For Topshop In The Works? [Racked]