In the realm of concert photography, the pinnacle achievement is often securing the role of tour photographer for a major band. However, as the recent legal saga unfolded, the dreamy prospect took a nightmarish turn for ex-Guns N’ Roses photographer Katarina Benzova.
A lawsuit brought forth by Benzova unveils a troubling narrative, weaving together allegations of copyright infringement and disconcerting workplace sexual harassment. It appears that the band and its management, Team Brazil, stand accused of falsely claiming ownership of a substantial portion of Benzova’s work, resulting in unauthorized uses across various media platforms.
Benzova’s legal battle not only addresses copyright concerns but also shines a light on a workplace environment lacking essential safeguards against sexual harassment. She describes an atmosphere “completely devoid of any sexual harassment policy, sexual harassment handbook, sexual harassment training, and human resource department,” leaving her vulnerable to unwelcome advances from Guns N’ Roses’s manager, Fernando Lebeis.
The lawsuit comes to public attention in the wake of Guns N’ Roses filing their own legal action against Benzova, seeking declaratory relief. The band asserts that Benzova, who provided tour photography services from 2010 to 2022, attempted to claim ownership of photos explicitly owned by the band. They emphasize a 12-year collaboration during which she was well-compensated and treated exceptionally, framing her claims as baseless retaliation.
Benzova counters with a narrative that paints her 12-year stint as a freelancer in shades of ambiguity, emphasizing the absence of formal contracts during significant periods. She contends that, during these uncontracted phases, she retained sole ownership of her photographs, backed by 180 copyright registrations. Meanwhile, she alleges that the band and Team Brazil shamelessly “commercialized at least 145 of her photographs” without proper authorization.
In addition to seeking recognition as the sole owner of images taken since 2010, the period without a written contract, Benzova claims a disturbing pattern of copyright infringement and sexual harassment. She accuses Guns N’ Roses and Team Brazil of routinely infringing upon her copyright, with Lebeis allegedly admitting to knowingly and intentionally infringing upon her copyrights. This included statements such as he was “too lazy to give her credit” or suggesting that “she didn’t need credit” as her identity as the band’s photographer was well-established.
Via Metal Injection – Benzova further alleges a darker note in the legal symphony, detailing a disturbing pattern of sexual harassment by Lebeis. The allegations include unwanted advances, explicit messages, and unsettling attempts to force himself onto her. Benzova contends that her rejection of these advances resulted in retaliatory actions, including financial repercussions, demotions, and other forms of mistreatment.
The legal clash between Benzova and Guns N’ Roses raises questions about whether it will be a crescendo to the band’s legacy or a mere backstage drama. If proven true, these allegations could tarnish the band’s reputation and prompt a reevaluation of the music industry’s treatment of photographers and freelancers. In an era of heightened awareness, the spotlight on workplace harassment and copyright battles may force Guns N’ Roses to confront not just legal consequences but also a potential shift in public perception.