JAY-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt” Lawsuit Against Cover Photographer Fails To Reach Settlement, Will Go To Trial

JAY-Z claims the photographer sold images from the photoshoot without his consent.

JAY-Z’s debut album Reasonable Doubt from 1996 will forever be acknowledged as a classic in his discography, housing songs like “D’evils” and “Can’t Knock the Hustle” with Mary J. Blige. However, recently, much controversy has surrounded the project.

In summer 2021, JAY-Z filed a lawsuit against the photographer who shot the album’s cover art, Jonathan Mannion. JAY-Z claimed that Mannion was using additional photos from the shoot to advertise his business on his website, and was selling photos of Hov without his permission: “It’s ironic that a photographer would treat the image of a formerly-unknown Black teenager, now wildly successful, as a piece of property to be squeezed for every dollar it can produce. It stops today.”

Mannion, who also shot other album covers for JAY-Z such as his 2003 studio album The Black Album, moved to dismiss the suit months later in August. Citing the First Amendment and the Copyright Act, Mannion claimed JAY-Z and his team were being presumptive: “(This is a) vitriolic complaint filled with false insinuations of exploitation.”

JAY-Z claims Mannion made thousands off is likeness, and the two parties met on Jan. 5 to attempt to reach a settlement. However, neither budged in their stances, as the court filings indicated: “Plaintiff Shawn Carter and Defendants Jonathan Mannion and Jonathan Mannion Photography LLC participated in a mediation before the Honorable Terry Friedman (Ret.) on January 5, 2022. The parties were unable to reach an agreement to resolve this case.”

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Now, the case will head to trial with a summer court date on July 22. Both Hov and Mannion seem insistent that they are in the right.

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