Prince’s Personal Photographer Unable to Reinstate Copyright Suit

Via: History.com

Allen Beaulieu was Prince’s personal photographer from 1979 to 1984. His work includes shooting three of the popstar’s album covers and three world tours. Beaulieu registered his copyright for his photos in 1984. In 2014, Beaulieu hired Thomas Martin Crouse to help with a photo book. A year later, Clint Stockwell was hired by Beaulieu to digitize the photos. After Prince passed away in 2016, the trio assumed that there would be more interest in Beaulieu’s photos, so they requested an investment from a financier named Charles Sanvik; however, the book project was eventually abandoned. 

In October 2016, Beaulieu sued Crouse, Stockwell, and Sanvik, alleging that they were infringing on his copyright because they had refused to return thousands of his photos after the book project was abandoned. Specifically, Beaulieu claimed that Stockwell had stated, “I can do anything I want with these photos.” However, United States District Judge Donovan Frank for the District of Minnesota granted summary judgment to the defendants, rejecting all of Beaulieu’s claims. 

Judge Frank noted that Beaulieu relied only on his memory to identify the number of photos that were stolen. There was no verifiable inventory of specific photos that Beaulieu had provided to the defendants nor was there an inventory of the specific photos returned. Judge Frank found that Beaulieu’s allegations were merely speculation. 

In August 2022, Beaulieu’s appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in Minnesota fell on deaf ears. Circuit Justice Duane Benton stated that Beaulieu had provided absolutely no evidence to show that the defendants still had any of his photos or that they were misusing them. Unfortunately, Beaulieu was unable to provide a clear inventory of how many photos, if any, were missing. Again, this is an example of a creative artist failing to take care of business properly and losing out as a result thereof.

Circuit Judges Raymond W. Gruender, Duane Benton and L. Steven Grasz sat on the panel for the Eighth Circuit.

Beaulieu is represented by Gabriel K. Gillett of Jenner & Block LLP.

Stockwell is represented by Michael L. Puklich of Neaton & Puklich PLLP.

Crouse is represented by Eva Wood.

Sanvik is represented by Edward F. Fox of Bassford Remele PA.

The case is Beaulieu v. Stockwell et al., case number 21-3833, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is a boutique entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The firm has extensive experience handling cases involving copyright infringement, having provided top-quality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized for its many achievements, including successfully litigating many high-profile cases.

Find us at our website at www.LoweLaw.com

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