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When Topshop put a picture of Rihanna on a t-shirt, the singer sued. And now a High Court judge in the U.K. has sided with her.
The photo the retailer used was taken during the shoot for Rihanna's "We Found Love" video, and appeared to be a film still. It was actually a photo the company had licensed from the photographer — but Topshop did not have and did not seek permission from Rihanna. Topshop first called the shirt the "Rihanna Tank," but after the singer, who didn't like her name and image being used for a commercial purpose without her knowledge or consent, complained, Topshop's Web site description changed to "Photographic tank with photographic motif of a girl wearing a headscarf." The company offered her $5,000 to go away.
Instead, Rihanna reportedly spent eight months and almost $1 million on legal fees seeking compensation for Topshop's use of her image and the discontinuation of the shirts. The judge agreed that Topshop's actions "represented a loss of Rihanna's reputation in the fashion realm." The question of damages was not addressed in this ruling.
The judge ruled that it was likely "a substantial number" of people who bought the shirts were doing so under the false impression that they were authorized Rihanna merchandise. Rihanna had been seeking $5 million in damages. Rihanna brought her lawsuit in London, where Topshop is headquartered. That she prevailed in the suit is significant in part because the law governing image rights is stronger in the U.S. than in the U.K.
— Jenna Sauers