Former Guns N’ Roses photographer Katarina Benzova has filed a lawsuit against the band and its management. In the process, filed in the California Court, in the United States, on November 11, the professional accuses the group of copyright infringement. The group’s manager, Brazilian Fernando Lebeis, is directly accused of sexual harassment.
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According to Loudwire, in addition to Guns N’ Roses and Lebeis, the process includes Gundam LLC — the holding company responsible for Guns’ business — and Team Brazil — which includes Fernando, Beta Lebeis (Axl Rose’s manager and mother de Fernando), Vanessa Santos (Axl’s manager, daughter of Beta and sister of Fernando) and Alex Santos (accountant at Gundam LLC).
The lawsuit points out that Benzova worked with Guns N’ Roses as a freelancer between 2010 and 2022, photographing 364 shows. She says the band and those responsible have violated copyright with their images “through the reproduction, public display, distribution, creation of derivative works, and retention of Benzova’s photographs for licensing and sale to third-party publications after termination of any right to do so.” ”. In the indictment, she also points out that the defendants altered several photographs to cover infractions and falsely claim ownership of them.
Regarding Fernando Lebeis, Katarina Benzova claims that the manager repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances numerous times, starting immediately after becoming the band’s manager in 2016 and not stopping until 2022. The lawsuit says that when Benzova rejected Lebeis’ advances, he became aggressive and hostile, in addition to reducing the professional’s fees, transferring her to cheaper hotels, demanding that she cover travel expenses that the company would pay and refusing to give credit for her photos.
Also according to the lawsuit, Katarina Benzova alleges that she tried to use written contracts with Guns N’ Roses since 2016, but the band’s management did not accept it. In 2022, according to her, Fernando Lebeis dismissed her due to “budget concerns”. However, Benzova alleges that the relationship ended due to the refusal of sexual advances and that another photographer on the team was not treated in the same way.
What does Guns N’ Roses say?
In a note to Loudwire, Guns N’ Roses commented on the case. The text says:
“Miss Benzova was initially hired to provide photography services for the Guns N’ Roses tour in 2010. She worked with the band for 12 years and was paid and treated extraordinarily well. It was only after her services were discontinued in 2022 that she attempted to claim ownership of photos that her contract clearly states were the band’s property. The band takes these types of allegations very seriously, but all evidence establishes that these accusations are categorically and unequivocally false. This response from her came after the band initiated proceedings against Ms. Benzova for falsely claiming ownership of band photos.”
Guns N’ Roses also sued Katarina Benzova in October — apparently, before the photographer took the band to court. In the lawsuit, the group alleges that no copyrights were infringed and that Benzova had “falsely alleged copyright infringement against multiple people and entities” in March of this year.
In their version, the band and those responsible say that Katarina agreed in 2010 that Waterhead International Inc, which manages Guns N’ Roses tours in addition to Gundam LLC, would be the exclusive owner of all her works on behalf of the group.
The Guns lawsuit further claims that Benzova entered into an agreement with Gundam in 2016 — renewed in 2021 — that said:
“You [Benzova] acknowledges and agrees that the results and revenues of its services provided during the period will be on a ‘work for hire basis’. Us [Gundam Productions] We will own the copyright and all intellectual property rights in all videos and photographs created by you during the period of your employment. Furthermore, we [Gundam] We will have the right, but not the obligation, to use your name, likeness, voice and biographical material in connection with the results and revenues of your services described herein.”
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