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Lawsuit: Estevan Oriol vs. H&M, Brandy Melville

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LA Photographer Estevan Oriol is filing suit against Swedish retailer H&M and Italian fashion house Brandy Melville for for the use of his copyrighted image known as "L.A. Fingers." Above, see a shirt made by Brandy Melville and sold at H&M, and below see the original image by Oriol (also available as a shirt of its own, from Upper Playground). According to the photographer's law firm:

The picture in question came from a now-famous 1995 photo session that depicted a female model's long, ring-clad fingers forming the letters "LA" for Los Angeles.  The unmistakable image instantly became a ubiquitous and iconic symbol of Los Angeles' cutting-edge street culture and has since been legally published worldwide in various magazines.  In 2006, Oriol created his own clothing line and produced T-shirts bearing his then well-known image.

Oriol's lawsuits contend that both H&M and Brandy Melville grossly infringed on his protected artistic work by using his "LA Hands" photograph to create a derivative and substantially similar image that is used on one or more of H&M and Brandy Melville's T-Shirts – items that have been sold and continue to be sold in their respective retail stores worldwide. "If you put my photograph side-by-side with their re-creation of my image, anyone would tell you they are one in the same…they clearly copied my image," Oriol said.

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Recent lawsuits by photographers against people creating derivative works of their image, even when the image has been straight-up copied, have usually not worked out well for the original photographer. In this case, however, Oriol was not only creating the original work, he also has already created clothing using his own image that may prove more defensible than the image alone.

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