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Jenner reps say Tupac t-shirt was legit, hit back at photographer lawsuit

By | Published on Tuesday 11 July 2017

Kylie & Kendall Jenner T-shirts

Hey, so here’s a story that has far more twists than you’d ever have expected. A rep for Kylie and Kendall Jenner’s Kendall + Kylie brand has hit out at a lawsuit launched against the sisters over a run of t-shirts that featured classic rock and hip hop imagery. The company behind the brand now say that the garments were fully licensed, because they simply printed over some old stock.

This has already got confusing, hasn’t it? Let’s have a recap! The Jenners started selling a line of t-shirts at $125 each recently. The shirts all featured some sort of Jenner-related image over the top of photos of artists such as The Doors, Notorious BIG, Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne and Tupac Shakur.

There was much criticism of the venture, then cease and desist letters went out from representatives of The Doors and Notorious BIG. The t-shirts were withdrawn from sale and the Jenners issued an apology, saying that the designs “were not well thought out”.

It then emerged last week that photographer Mike Miller had gone legal over the use of one of his images of Tupac Shakur on one of the t-shirts. His legal claim complained that the Jenners “at no times notified Miller that they intended to exploit his photography, let alone obtained his authorisation”.

Now Canada Inc, the company actually behind the manufacture of the garments, has hit back, saying that everything about the t-shirts was above board. The items involved were all vintage music t-shirts, it said. The imagery obscured by the Jenner branding was already on the shirts, so no new copies of those images had been made, meaning there was no need to clear the use of any artistic copyrights.

“The allegations made are completely false and the lawsuit is baseless”, says the company, in a statement to People. “Canada Inc, the licensee manufacturer of the K + K brand, purchased a very small quantity of vintage t-shirts with performer images already on them. Only two Tupac t-shirts were sold before being pulled from distribution. Canada Inc did not copy anyone’s image, remove any copyright notice from any image, or attempt to exploit Mr Miller’s claimed right of publicity. There has been no infringement or violation of anyone’s rights”.

The fact that old stock was modified to create the t-shirts put up for sale by the Jenners does complicate things from a copyright law perspective. And that’s before you start asking whether the designs might be covered by fair use. In Europe, the reworking of Miller’s photo might also arguably infringe his moral rights, but that’s not so relevant Stateside.

Anyway, Miller has not yet responded to the statement.