The late Tupac Shakur might no longer have any say over how his image is used, but that doesn’t mean you can use a photograph of the famed rapper without getting permission from the photographer.
That’s why both Macy’s and Urban Outfitters find themselves on the receiving end of a federal lawsuit over T-shirts sporting a copyrighted photograph of Tupac.
Photographer Chi Modu filed the lawsuit [PDF] Thursday in federal court in California, accusing the retailers, along with merchandising company Bravado International Group, of copyright infringement for creating and then selling apparel that features his photograph of the late rapper.
According to the lawsuit, the three companies contributed to the infringement of Modu’s copyrights or engaged in one or more wrongful practices when it comes to using his photographs.
Modu — who is a known for “his work depicting prominent figures in the world of hip-hop” — is the sole owner of the photographs used on the shirts and sweatshirts sold at the retailers.
While Modu admits that he and Bravado negotiated an agreement in which the manufacturer would have certain rights in regard to the photos, the agreement expired no later than July 2016.
Modu claims that the merchandise in question wasn’t created until after that date, accusing Bravado or its customers — in this case Macy’s and Urban Outfitters — of continuing to use his photos without permission.
Bravado then allegedly sold the products to third-parties, such as Macy’s and Urban Outfitters, who in return sold the products to customers.
With the lawsuit, Modu is seeking the retailers’ profits from the shirts and unspecified damages.
Not The First Tupac Lawsuit
Modu is not the first photographer to take aim at retailers for allegedly misusing photographs of Tupac.
Back in June, Photographer Danny Clinch filed a lawsuit [PDF] accusing a merchandiser, Forever 21, and Urban Outfitters of copyright infringement for using his photos of the late rapper without permission.
The photos, which were featured in a profile of the rapper in Rolling Stone magazine in 1993 and then again on the magazine’s cover in 1996, were copyrighted by Clinch in 2002, giving him sole discretion on when the picture could be used.