It has not been a great week to be Forever 21. The retailer, along with Urban Outfitters, is heading to court after a celebrity photographer alleges they used his photos of Tupac Shakur on clothing without his permission. Photographer Danny Clinch filed the copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court in New York last week. The photos were from the 1993 and 1996 covers of Rolling Stone magazine.
The suit reads, "Defendants, without the authorization, knowledge or consent of the plaintiff, deliberately and willfully copied, displayed, distributed, and sold the copyrighted photographs on such infringing T-shirts and perhaps other apparel." In this case, along with the two retailers, the defendants include Bioworld Merchandising (who produced the shirts), Planet Productions LLC (who licensed the shirts), and Amaru/AWA Merchandising, Inc. (the company in charge of licensing Tupac merchandise).
According to The Consumerist, it appears that Amaru/AWA Merchandising Inc. granted Planet Productions permission to use the images on behalf of the copyright holder. Clinch is the copyright holder of the images, but he claims he never authorized Amaru/AWA to act on his behalf. Clinch is seeking $600,000 in damages, the destruction of any remaining shirts featuring his images, and an order prohibiting the companies from using the images in the future.
This is the second time in as many weeks that Forever 21 is feeling the wrath of a celebrity. Frank Ocean took to Tumblr to express shock that a font that was potentially designed specifically for him appeared on the doors of a Forever 21 store. However, typefaces aren't considered intellectual property and Ocean likely wouldn't have a case in court. That said, it's not a great look for the retailer.
Both Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters have been at the centre of copyright infringement lawsuits in the past, and have been accused many times over of stealing work from other artists. Last year, Urban Outfitters finally settled its years-long lawsuit with the Navajo Nation. Ironically, earlier this year, Forever 21 filed a lawsuit of its own accusing other retailers of co-opting its designs.