Fashion Law

Rihanna SUES Topshop for $5Million for Unauthorized Use of Image/Likeness on T-shirts #Fashionlaw #Rightofpublicity

Rihanna finally got even with photographers. How many times have we seen, over the years, photographers sue Rihanna for copyright infringement of their photos in her artistic work?

This time, it’s Rihanna’s turn. A photographer sold Rihanna’s image to a top retail store in the UK called Topshop. They in turn used her image/likeness in t-shirts and have made the product available for sale to the public. When Rihanna found out, she told them to cease and desist and tried to negotiate a resolution with them. Topshop however blew her off. She decided to sue. The UK does not have a ‘Right of Publicity Law’ unlike the USA. So, what do you think will happen in this case?

Let’s identify some of the key legal issues here?

1. Does Topshop have the legal right to manufacture and sell t-shirts with Rihanna’s image /likeness without paying a licensing fee to her? (Basically can they sell the t-shirts without her consent since they are using her image/likeness?)

2. Assuming the answer is  “no,” what rights should they have obtained?
We will see how the UK courts rule. Rihanna may very well help set precedent in the UK. If this case was in the USA, say California where I practice, there would be two competing rights:
1. The copyright of the photographer who took the image; and
2. The right of publicity of Rihanna for use of her image and likeness. See California Civil Code Section 3344.
Note that the photographer has sold the copyright to Top Shop which means Top Shop now holds the copyright, most likely on an exclusive basis.

-Uduak Oduok, Esq.

Rihanna is suing British retail giant Topshop — chaired by billionaire Sir Philip Green — for $5 million for selling T-shirts bearing her image without her consent.

A source exclusively tells us the superstar’s team had tried to negotiate with Topshop owners Arcadia Group for eight months over the rights to her image, “but they offered her $5,000 and said they don’t care.”

Rihanna, 25, has hired international law firm Reed Smith to file the suit in London.

The source said, “Rihanna’s management asked Topshop a number of times to stop selling her image and were told, ‘We do what we want.’ They buy the pictures from a photographer, but they do not pay the artist licensing fees. Unfortunately, UK law does not protect the artist.

“What is most offensive for Rihanna is that they basically told her, ‘Go to hell. We don’t care; we are going to continue selling you.’ Topshop is now in the United States. They set up in Manhattan and Nordstrom, but they know better than to do this in the US because they would get in trouble,” our source continued.

“Even though the UK laws don’t protect the artist, she has decided to move forward and sue Topshop. She has spent almost $1 million in litigation at this point. She says it’s the principle, and wants to make a statement about it. They are taking advantage of artists. It is just exploitation. What they are doing is wrong.”

New York Post has the Full Story.

Ms. Uduak Oduok is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Ladybrille® Magazine. She is also a Practicing Attorney and Partner at Ebitu Law Group, P.C, where her practice areas include Business Litigation and Fashion & Entertainment Law. She has counseled a range of clients from musicians, models, actors and actresses to designers on numerous areas of the law including contracts, business law, fashion and entertainment law, copyright, trademark i.e. intellectual property law. She can be reached at ([email protected]) to share/pitch your fashion law related stories for a feature on Ladybrille. All other inquiries, please visit the  page for appropriate contact email.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing herein forms an attorney-client relationship. The legal commentary& analysis provided on Ladybrille is for informational purposes only and is not meant nor should be construed to be legal advice.

Ms. Uduak

Ms. Uduak is best known as an advocate who uses the tools of media and the law to help creatives and businesses clearly articulate their true brand identities, and communicate it to the world through their products and services, to maximize profits. She is a lawyer, speaker, author, journalist, and recognized thought leader, and trailblazer for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States.  She is also the founder and publisher of Ladybrille® Magazine, and an Attorney and Partner at Ebitu Law Group, P.C, where her practice focuses on Fashion, Business, & Entertainment Law and Trials. For more information about her, visit

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