Rihanna may like Topshop enough to spend five hours straight shopping there—but apparently not enough to allow them to sell t-shirts with her face on them without her permission, because she’s currently suing the retailer for a cool $5 million. Yikes!
The New York Post reports that the singer has been trying to negotiate for with Topshop’s owners, Arcadia Group, for eight months over the rights to her image without success; as such, she’s heading to court. According to the Post’s source, “Rihanna’s management asked Topshop a number of times to stop selling her image and were told, ‘We do what we want.’” They did apparently offer her $5,000; but, said the source, “they don’t care.” Ouch.
The shirt isn’t being sold in the US, where laws would protect Riahanna; but in the UK where the suit is being filed, she might actually have a pretty tough time winning the case. Topshop purchased the image from the photographer who took it, which technically makes them exempt by law from paying Rihanna licensing fees. But the singer apparently doesn’t actually care about winning the case; it’s about the principle of the thing. Continued the Post’s source, “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.”
Interestingly, the shirt, called the “Icon Tank,” has been taken down from Topshop’s UK website; Fashionista got a peek at it before it vanished, though, and apparently it was described as a “photographic tank with photographic motif of a girl wearing a headscarf.” It looked like this:
Just a girl in a headscarf. Riiiiiiiight.
Of course, the flip side of the whole thing is that ultimate, we’re not looking at a struggling artist going up against the Big Bad Corporate Entity; we’re looking at someone who is worth an estimated $53 million going up against an equally rich and powerful company, which kind of makes it hard to feel bad for ANYONE involved in the case. However, if it’s about the principle of the matter on Rihanna’s part, that’s something we can get behind: Unlike the struggling artist, Rihanna has the means to go head to head with Topshop, and if she’s doing it to try to prevent that happening to others, then more power to her.
In any event, neither Topshop nor Rihanna’s camp are commenting right now, so we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.
Tell us: Who do you think is in the right here (if anyone)?
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s senior editor.