John Lennon’s Photographer Sues Universal Music Group for Infringing on Iconic Photograph

John Lennon’s award-winning photographer has taken Universal Music Group (UMG) to court.

Filed yesterday at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Allan Tannenbaum claims the major music group has willfully infringed on an iconic photograph of John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono.  He states he owns all rights, the title, and interest in ‘the Photograph.’

Tannenbaum’s work has won several awards, including the World Press Photo Award for General News Award.

On his website, Tannenbaum writes,

John Lennon cracks a joke while he and Yoko are nude in bed filming a video for ‘Just Like Starting Over’ in a SoHo studio, November 26, 1980.

A single 8.5 x 11” photograph costs $150.  A 17 x 22” photograph goes up to $2,200.

Filing a single claim – copyright infringement – against UMG, Tannenbaum explained the major music group ran an unauthorized article on its website entitled ‘John Lennon- Milk and Honey.’

The article, first published on July 22nd, 2015 and is still live, reads,

John Lennon – Milk and Honey

“Milk and Honey reinforces the sense of loss that we feel when we listen to it today.  From John’s songs of promise to Yoko’s songs of her deep personal loss.

The article also properly attributes the photograph to Tannenbaum.

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(Click to enlarge.)

Explaining how UMG infringed on the iconic work, he writes,

Universal Music infringed Plaintiff’s copyright in the Photograph by reproducing and publicly displaying the Photograph on the Website.  Universal Music is not, and has never been, licensed or otherwise authorized to reproduce, publically display, distribute, and/or use the Photograph.

Thus, Tannenbaum concludes UMG’s article publication constitutes infringement of his copyright as well as exclusive rights.

Upon information and belief, the foregoing acts of infringement by Universal Music have been willful, intentional, and purposeful, in disregard of and indifference to Plaintiff’s rights.

Demanding a trial by jury, he demands up to $150,000 for UMG’s “willful infringement of the Photograph.”  In addition, he requests a judge order the major music group to account for all profits, income, receipts, or other benefits as a result of its “unlawful conduct.”

You can read the lawsuit below.


Featured image by Eric Koch (CC0 1.0).