Photographer sues rapper Nas and Snoop Dogg cries foul

The case of a photographer suing a celebrity after posting a photo of themselves without the photographer’s permission is by no means a new one. The most recent headline – “Photographer Sues Rapper Nas” – took a twist, with another rapper coming out in a video saying new laws are needed to protect celebrities from photographers.

Al Pereira, a photographer whose celebrity images adorn the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is taking the rapper known as Nas to court after he shared an image of himself and the late rapper Tupac on Instagram. Pereira took the photo at a New York club in 1993, then reposted the photo in 2017, filing for copyright. On February 2 of this year, the photographer filed a lawsuit in the Central District of California. But the lawsuit drew extra attention last week after fellow rapper Snoop Dogg shared his thoughts on the case.

In a video shared by Worldstar on Instagram, Snoop Dogg called for new laws to protect celebrities. “You’re borrowing my likeness, how are you going to sue Nas for a picture he’s in?” he says in the video. “We need new laws to help us as artists because there’s a bunch of motherfuckers selling pictures with my face on them and I’m not pissed off because they took the picture.”

[Read: 6 Copyright Infringement Cases Photographers Should Know About]

The controversy is one that has come into the limelight after several recent cases, where celebrities have been sued for sharing photos of themselves, including LeBron James, Lisa Rinna, Dua Lipa and Gigi Hadid. US copyright law states that the photographer owns the rights to the photos they take, unless another legal agreement is in place, such as in the case of some contracts with photo agencies.

Snoop Dog’s choice of words is interesting, calling for laws to protect artists but referring to artists in the music industry. Snoop Dogg’s net worth is estimated at $150 million, making him one of the richest rappers in the industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the average annual salary of a photographer at $42,770.

In the Nas case, Pereira said he made a living by licensing his images; posting the image on Instagram, Pereira says Nas is both taking advantage of the image and diminishing the value of this photograph.

Aaron M. Aarce Stark, founding attorney of Stark.Law, explains that the photographer and the person in the photo have rights. The photographer, Stark explained in an interview last year, owns the copyright and the photo itself as intellectual property. However, he added, the person in the photo is entitled to publicity. Some states, including California, have a right to privacy law, which requires the permission of the person in the photo before an image can be used for commercial purposes. Privacy law only applies to commercial images. However, Stark notes that it’s not always clear what defines advertising – a photo on a photographer’s website could be considered an advertisement for the photographer, for example. Want more information about photo copyrights? Learn more here.

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