Is Ryan McGinley’s Copyright Lawsuit Ridiculous?

07.13.11 Marina Galperina

Photographer Janine “Jah Jah” Gordon is suing Ryan McGinley and Levi’s for stealing her ideas and the “style, idea, composition, backgrounds, foregrounds, expressions, gestures” from her work. She claims he’s been ripping her since the ’90s and wants $30,000 for each of the 150 times he’s allegedly done so.

Alone, these examples — “boy looking upward, mouth slightly open in an expression of awe” and “subject’s left arm is in the air angling above his head” — hardly constitute copyright infringement, but together, there’s a common theme, sure. But that’s natural when you mine the same milieus and fish in the same banal seas of titillating youths. Maybe McGinley’s piles of boys or smooching young’uns aren’t “derived” from Gordon’s work. Maybe they’re just derivative?

Then there’s this.

Gordon, Jesus, McGinley. Boys “in awe.” (Hattip: Jim Coldberg).

Gordon contests that Ryan McGinley “could not have created his photographs without looking at Gordon’s,” and it’s very, very possible that the technically-skilled photo-celebrity studied Gordon’s work to make his. But, unfortunately, you can’t get sued for stealing ideas like this yet… or being a dick by avoiding Gordon at parties and ignoring her phone calls.

That said, watch Ryan McGinley rape Jean-Luc-Godard with a Nina Ricci perfume bottle: