08 Sep, 2009

Annie Leibovitz sued for $300,000

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Italian claims she passed off his pictures as her own for Lavazza coffee company advertising campaign

The travails of celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz have intensified after an Italian photographer filed a $300,000 lawsuit claiming she passed off his pictures as her own for an advertising campaign.

Paolo Pizzetti, a photographer from Siena, reportedly alleges Leibovitz breached his copyright by reproducing photos he took in Venice and Rome for a calendar commissioned by the Lavazza coffee company.

The lawsuit – worth £183,000 – was lodged last Friday and hinges on claims that the American used images of the Trevi Fountain in Rome and Piazza San Marco in Venice without Pizzetti’s permission.

On another legal front, Leibovitz is already struggling to contain a welter of claims against her estate, including a complaint she has broken the contract terms of a $24million loan taken out last year.

Pizzetti says he was instructed to scout locations for the calendar shoot and sent Leibovitz the images, only to be told she would not be travelling to Italy to complete the assignment. But he later saw his images in the calendar, which was published last October, including one on the front cover, prompting the legal action.

Documents filed with the court say a comparison of the Venice photo shows “the same wet-weather conditions, cloud formation and the same bird in the upper left portion of the photograph”. Leibovitz’s spokesman, Matthew Hiltzik, told Bloomberg News : “Since we have not yet seen the filing, we have no comment.”

Leibovitz was granted another month to respond to a claim from the Art Capital Group that she had breached the terms of the $24m loan. She is due to repay the sum by tomorrow amid rumours that she risks losing her homes and the rights to a lifetime of work.

The parlous state of her financial affairs has captivated New York’s celebrity scene, where Leibovitz is as much a fixture as many of her subjects. She has earned a reputation for lavish tastes and finds herself mired in financial troubles despite enjoying a reported $2m salary from Condé Nast, publishers of Vanity Fair.

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