Copyright: Cipriani Sues Kendrick Lamar Over Photograph

According to the complaint —

Giordano Cipriani is an award-winning freelance photographer who posted a photograph on his website that he had taken in Ethiopia on 18 February 2011. He had posted the photograph on his website, along with a copyright notice that said "all images © giordano cipriani. all rights reserved." He filed an application for copyright on 15 June 2015. 

On 15 March 2015, Kendrick Lamar and his record label jointly released his third studio album, "To Pimp a Butterfly," which included the single, "The Blacker the Berry." The album sold 592,000 copies as of the date of the complaint. 

To promote the release, Top Dawg posted a video of "The Blacker the Berry" on its official channel on YouTube. A video on the channel featured the photograph for the duration of the video and the video had been viewed at least over ten million times. Top Dawg also posted cover art for "The Blacker the Berry" that featured the photograph.

Lamar also posted a link to the YouTube channel on his Facebook page to promote the album. He also featured a link to the video on his own YouTube channel. 

Cipriani claims that he didn't grant a license to Lamar, Top Dawg, or the other defendants, to use the photograph in any manner. He filed suit under copyright, alleging that Top Dawg's posting on YouTube, its cover art and link to the video, and Lamar's links to the YouTube video infringed Cipriani's rights. He has demanded over $1,000,000 in damages, pleading for profits attributable to the infringement and/or for statutory damages of $150,000 for each act of infringement. He is also demanding his attorneys' fees under 17 U.S.C. § 505.

A copy of the complaint is here: Original Complaint – Cipriani v. Duckworth, et al 

The complaint includes several exhibits, including the photograph, Cipriani's application for copyright (apparently filed by his attorneys), and screen shots of the various alleged infringements.

Note: Cipriani's application for copyright appears to have been filed after the alleged infringement first occurred. He would have done well to have filed the application before he posted the photograph to his website. The complaint also shows some of the investigative process of a copyright claim. Cipriani's attorneys made copies of web pages of the alleged infringement before filing suit. Good move.