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Rihanna Wins Lawsuit Against Topshop

Pascal Le Segretain, Getty Images / Topshop

Rihanna has been busy suing British clothing retailer Topshop for using her likeness without permission, and even though UK law says you can’t copyright your own image, she still won big.

The shirt in question featured a photo of RiRi taken from a 2011 video shoot, and they were being sued $5 million for their use of it. Rihanna’s legal team claimed that by selling the shirt, Topshop tricked her fans who may have thought she approved the shirt and in turn “ruined her reputation” — specifically work within her own clothing line, River Island.

Okay, then.

In response, Topshop alleged that Rihanna was trying to create a “free standing image right” to control the use of her image in the UK, which again doesn’t exist in British law.

The case was reviewed in High Court (white wigs and all) by Mr. Justice Birss, and it was obviously a pretty cut and dry case as it only took him two minutes to make his judgement.

He concluded that there is “no such thing as a general right by a famous person to control the reproduction of their image” and furthermore, “the taking of the photograph is not suggested to have breached Rihanna’s privacy … The mere sale by a trader of a T-shirt bearing an image of a famous person is not an act of passing off.”

“However, I find that Topshop’s sale of this T-shirt was an act of passing off,” he concluded, surprising the clothing retailer’s legal team because at first everything was going swimmingly in their favor.

In layman’s terms, “passing off” is a legal concept about the misrepresentation of ownership. In this cas,e Topshop is appearing to own Rihanna’s image when they really don’t.

In their defense, Topshop admitted, “There was no intention to create an appearance of an endorsement or promotion. We feel that the fact that Rihanna has shopped, worn and had a relationship with Topshop for several years appears to have been detrimental to our case.”

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