Jay-Z Sues Hip-Hop Photographer Jonathan Mannion Over 'Reasonable Doubt'-Era Photos

Jay-Z has filed a lawsuit against hip-hop photographer Jonathan Mannion, accusing him of selling photos of Jay-Z and subsequently profiting off his likeness without the rapper’s permission.

Jay-Z (whose real name is Shawn Carter) hired Mannion as a photographer in the mid-Nineties, and Mannion snapped “hundreds of photographs” of the rapper, per legal documents obtained by Rolling Stone. One of those photographs — the rapper clad in a suit and hat holding a cigar — became the cover for Jay-Z’s landmark 1996 debut, Reasonable Doubt.

The lawsuit, however, states that while Mannion was compensated for his work, “Jay-Z never gave Mannion permission to resell any of the images. Nor did Jay-Z authorize Mannion to use his name, likeness, identity, or persona for any purpose.” Because Carter never gave Mannion his permission to sell these photos, the suit claims, “Mannion has no legal right to do so.” (Representatives for Mannion and Carter did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.)

The suit states that Carter has asked Mannion to stop selling photos of him, but Mannion has refused. Furthermore, the lawsuit claims, “Mannion has now demanded that Jay-Z pay him tens of millions of dollars to put an end to Mannion’s use of Jay-Z’s likeness.”

According to the lawsuit, Mannion “prominently displays a photograph of Jay-Z” on his website’s homepage, while he also sells so-called “Fame Wall” T-shirts, which “display Jay-Z’s name… above other well-known artists that Mannion has photographed.” Additionally, the suit includes several photographs that Mannion took of Carter — including the Reasonable Doubt cover — and states that Mannion sells prints of these pictures on his website for thousands of dollars.

The suit levels two claims for relief at Mannion, one in violation of a California Civil Code for allegedly “misappropriating and using for commercial purposes Jay-Z’s name, likeness, identity, and persona” without permission. And another for violating California common law regarding rights of publicity. Carter is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction that would require Mannion and his associates to stop using his likeness. Carter is also seeking unspecified damages.

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