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Vampire Weekend Contra album cover controversy

August 19, 2010 No Comments »
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A former model has sued the band Vampire Weekend alleging unauthorized use of a Polaroid photo of her on the cover of their release “Contra.”  The model, Ann Kirsten Kennis, is seeking $2 million in damages for use of a Polaroid picture taken of her in 1983.  Kennis apparently learned of the album cover when her daughter showed her the album.  Kennis’s lawyer said the picture was a private family photo and not a modeling picture intended for commercial use.  Her lawyer says that that Kennis’ mother sometimes sold collections of the photographs she took to shops and charity bazaars. 

As any student of Right of Publicity matters, or any observer of this website, might know, such a transaction (sale of a bulk amount of random pictures) does not necessarily convey the range of clearances and permissions necessary to make commercial use of the specific images included in that bulk sale.

The picture made its way to photographer Tod Brody, who is also named in the suit.  The lawsuit alleges that Brody informed Vampire Weekend that he took the picture, and further alleges that Brody forged Kennis’ signature on a release form. 

Vampire Weekend apparently paid a $5,000 for the picture.  In a prepared statement, Vampire Weekend said “As is standard practice, Vampire Weekend and XL Recordings licensed the rights to use the photo on the cover of Contra pursuant to a license agreement that contains representations and warranties authorizing this use of the photo. Now that a lawsuit has been filed, we look forward to having the matter resolved in court.”

We shall see.


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