Vampire Weekend vs. their own album cover

Kudos to Pitchfork for picking up on this Vanity Fair article about the woman who appears on the cover of Vampire Weekend’s top-selling album, Contra, and is suing pretty much everybody over it. The polaroid of a blonde-haired blue-eyed girl from the 80s is maybe one of the most memorable album covers of the last few years and has been used extensively in Vampire Weekend’s advertising campaign for the album, as well as tour backdrops, press kits, web sites, etc. But apparently the former model who appears in the picture had no idea her image was being used.

According to the interview with Vanity Fair, ex-model Ann Kirsten Kennis first saw the image in January when her daughter pulled up the album cover online. She says she never signed a release form and thinks the photo was taken by her mother. The band however paid New York photographer Tod Brody $5,000 for the shot which he said he took during a casting session in 1983 (Brody does have a record of being shady and possibly fraudulent).

What the band and label have on their side is a release form dated July 30, 2009 addressed to a “Kirsten Johnsen” (a combination of her old modeling pseudonym with a seemingly random last name) who signed permission to use the photo. If it turns out the form is legit, Kennis won’t have much of a case. But if it’s a fraud, the band, the label and Brody will all be in hot water.

For Vampire Weekend this seems to be just a case of a misunderstanding. It looks like they just found the picture, contacted the person who claimed to have taken it, sent a form to the name of the woman he gave them, and acquired the rights. But somewhere along the line, either Brody figures Kennis will never know and lies to make a quick $5,000, or wires get crossed and they send the release form to the wrong person who mindlessly signs it.

But let’s also not forget that Kennis is clearly digging for gold here. How much did it hurt her reputation that she was on the cover of a number one album? “Oh! You’re that beautiful woman on the cover of that album that’s selling so well! God how awful!” According to the article, she’s currently working on a line of space-themed teddy bears called the “Cosmic Cubs Club.” She could stand to get out of the house every once in a while. I get that using one’s image for commercial use without permission is wrong. But in this case, who’s really losing out?

1 comment to Vampire Weekend vs. their own album cover

  • DrunkCountry

    @knoxroad i think the kudos belongs to Vanity Fair on that one. & u have to remember, she was a model so her image was her currency.