Nov 15, 2023 2 min read

Guns N Roses sued by photographer in copyright dispute

A photographer has sued Guns N Roses and their management team over allegations they have infringed the copyright in her images - she also accuses manager Fernando Lebeis of sexual harassment

Guns N Roses sued by photographer in copyright dispute

A photographer has sued Guns N Roses and their management company Team Brazil in a dispute over the copyright in her images. She also accuses band manager Fernando Lebeis of sexual harassment.

Katarina Benzova says that she worked as a tour photographer for Guns N Roses on and off from 2010 to 2022. In more recent years, she alleges in a lawsuit filed with the courts in California, the band have been making use of her photos - including sharing them with media and promoters - without her permission and often without crediting her.

When she first began working for Guns N Roses, Benzova had a contract with the band. And under that contract, the lawsuit concedes, "Benzova need not authorise and approve of Team Brazil and Guns N Roses’ commercialisation of the Benzova photographs because her works were 'a work for hire' during the exclusive term of the contract".

That would basically make the band the owner of the copyright in the photographs. However, after 2016 there was no contract. Yet, "despite the absence of a written contract, Team Brazil and Guns N Roses commercialised at least 145 of the Benzova photographs without her authorisation, permission, and against her consent and objectively manifested intent".

She adds that the band's management team were aware that they did not have the rights in the photos she took after 2016, noting that at one point they offered her $8000 to assign them the rights in images from 2021 and 2022.

Benzova also lists various run-ins she had with Lebeis over the use of her photos, adding that on one occasion he admitted to "knowingly and intentionally infringing upon Ms Benzova’s copyrights, egregiously stating that he knew but was too lazy to give her credit".

In addition to the copyright claim, Benzova's lawsuit also states that "since 2016, after Benzova escaped numerous unwelcome sexual advances from Fernando Lebeis, she endured consistent pervasive sexual harassment by Lebeis - all within in a workplace environment that was completely devoid of any sexual harassment policy, sexual harassment handbook, sexual harassment training, and human resource department".

UPDATE 17 Nov 2023, 5.00pm:

Responding to the lawsuit, a spokesperson for the band told CMU: “Ms Benzova was initially contracted to provide tour photography services for Guns N Roses in 2010. She worked with the band for twelve years and was paid and treated extraordinarily well. It was only after her services were discontinued in 2022 that she attempted to claim ownership in photos which her contract clearly states are owned by the band".

"The band takes these types of claims very seriously however all evidence establishes these accusations are categorically and unequivocally false", they add. "This response from her comes after the band initiated suit against Ms Benzova for falsely asserting ownership in the photos of the band".

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