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Photographer Adrian Boot, Napster Settle Copyright Dispute Over Sugar Minott Photo

June 7th, 2024

The copyright infringement lawsuit between UK photographer Adrian Boot and streaming service Napster — over the allegedly unauthorized use of a photo of Reggae and Dancehall artist Sugar Minott — has been settled out of court.

According to court filings obtained by DancehallMag, both parties reached a mutual agreement on May 14, which resulted in the suit being dismissed before it could proceed to trial.

The specific terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but Boot had sought statutory damages, which can run up to $150,000, an award of US$15,114 for Napster’s alleged willful infringement, attorney fees, and costs.

The photograph at the center of the dispute was taken in 1979 during a session at Minott’s home in London, Boot said in his complaint filed in March 2023. It was later used as the cover art for the 2005 album Sugar Minott At Studio One.

Covert art for ‘Sugar Minott At Studio One’

Boot claimed that while UK label Soul Jazz Records paid him £552.25 to use the photo on the album cover, Napster did not have the right to use the original photograph (not the album cover) on its website.

In his lawsuit, the photographer argued that Napster’s use of the digital image on their site would have required a separate license fee of £2,147.56 through his company, Urbanimage.

However, Napster — under parent company Rhapsody International Inc. — argued that by acquiring distribution rights for the album, they implicitly gained rights to the artwork, including the original photograph. 

The company claimed that the photo’s use was legal under licenses passed through several entities, from Soul Jazz Records to music distributor Play It Again Sam (PIAS), and ultimately to Rhapsody/Napster.

In a ruling last month, U.S. District Judge Kymberly K. Evanson denied the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment, citing issues of material fact that should be resolved by a jury.  She noted the “scant evidence” regarding whether Rhapsody’s use fell within an implied license granted to Soul Jazz Records.

Regarding Rhapsody’s claim of a license through its contract with PIAS, Judge Evanson said, “Because the Court finds that on this record, there are questions of fact as to whether Rhapsody’s use was licensed either expressly or impliedly, and that issue is dispositive to both cross-motions for summary judgment, both motions must be denied and this case must proceed to trial.”

The trial was set for June 10 before the settlement was reached.

Adrian Boot, a former Physics teacher in Jamaica, is renowned for his photographs of several other famous musicians, including Bob Marley.

The Sugar Minott At Studio One album is a collection of the Jamaican singer’s work at the legendary Studio One during the 1970s.  It included songs such as Hang On Natty, Vanity, Jah Jah Children, and Love Gonna Pack Up.

Miniott passed away in July 2010 at age 54.

This content was originally sourced and posted at DancehallMag »
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