You’ve probably seen this story on social media or heard somebody talk about it, and you might think you’ve got a gist of it: So JAY-Z‘s suing the photographer behind his iconic Reasonable Doubt album cover for “exploiting his image”? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. But lucky for you, we’ve got all the details of this increasingly messy lawsuit.
JAY-Z vs. Jonathan Mannion
On Tuesday, June 15, TMZ reported that Hov was suing the iconic photographer – and his frequent collaborator – Jonathan Mannion. According to the outlet, JAY’s lawsuit was prompted by allegations that the photographer who shot his debut album cover is making exploiting the rapper’s image and likeness without consent.
You most likely know the image in question. The black-and-white snapshot shows a dapper JAY-Z dressed in a coal suit, accessorized with a cream silk scarf, and tipping his hat with a cigar laced between his fingers.
Jay-Z claims Mannion has raked in thousands of dollars by plastering his picture all over his website and selling the prints for tons of money.
“Jay-Z never gave Mannion permission to resell any of the images,” according to the legal documents obtained by Vulture. “Nor did Jay-Z authorize Mannion to use his name, likeness, identity, or persona for any purpose.”
In his complaint, the “99 Problems” rapper reveals he privately requested that Mannion cease all use of his likeness prior to pursuing litigation. However, Mannion allegedly refused, and “demanded that JAY-Z pay him tens of millions of dollars to put an end to Mannion’s use of JAY-Z’s likeness,” Rolling Stone reports.
If JAY-Z’s request for an injunction is permitted, Mannion – who has snapped classic shots of pop culture megastars like Dr. Dre, Nicki Minaj, and Snoop Dogg – will have to discontinue the use of his name and image, as well as pay out “compensatory damages.”
In the court paper, JAY notes: “[It’s] ironic that a photographer would treat the image of a formerly unknown Black teenager, now wildly successful, as a piece of property to be squeezed for every dollar it can produce. It stops today.” (Mannion, however, was hired by JAY-Z in 1996, when JAY-Z was 26.)
In response to the rapper’s lawsuit, Mannion’s legal representative shared a statement, invoking the First Amendment as his defense.
“Mr. Mannion has created iconic images of Mr. Carter over the years, and is proud that these images have helped to define the artist that Jay-Z is today. Mr. Mannion has the utmost respect for Mr. Carter and his body of work, and expects that Mr. Carter would similarly respect the rights of artists and creators who have helped him achieve the heights to which he has ascended. We are confident that the First Amendment protects Mr. Mannion’s right to sell fine art prints of his copyrighted works, and will review the complaint and respond in due course.”
JAY-Z vs. Dame Dash
In another lawsuit pertaining to his debut album, JAY-Z is suing his former business partner, Roc-A-Fella co-founder and hip-hop mogul Damon Dash.
Per TMZ, JAY’s music label has filed a lawsuit against Dash over his alleged attempt to mint and sell Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt album as an NFT. Roc-A-Fella claims Dash intended to sell the NFT in a since-canceled auction and fears the record executive will try to do it again.
In new paperwork filed late Friday in New York lawyers for the rapper state, “Dash had planned to sell at a SuperFarm Foundation online auction on Jun. 23… the copyright to Jay-Z’s album Reasonable Doubt, recognized as one of the greatest recordings in history.
“That auction was canceled and Dash is frantically scouting for another venue to make the sale… The sale of this irreplaceable asset must be stopped before it is too late, and Dash must be held accountable for his theft.”
When JAY-Z recorded and released the 1996 album, Dash and Kareem Burke each own one-third of the shares in the Roc-A-Fella record label under which it was released. The lawsuit points out that Dash, “merely owns a 1/3 equity interest in Roc-A-Fella Inc, he does not own the copyright….and, therefore, has no right to sell the copyright or any individual ownership interests in Reasonable Doubt.”
JAY and Dash have yet to comment on the lawsuit.