Vampire Weekend sued by 'Contra' cover model

Vampire-Weekend-ContraA faintly smiling young woman wearing a yellow Ralph Lauren shirt became instantly famous earlier this year when a vintage photo of her appeared on the front cover of Vampire Weekend‘s chart-topping Contra album. Now someone has come forward as the heretofore anonymous model — and she’s hitting the indie rockers with a multi-million dollar lawsuit, claiming they used the image without her permission.

In papers filed yesterday in an L.A. court, Ann Kirsten Kennis says that the photo was taken around 1983, when she was working as “a high-fashion model under contract with prestigious agencies in New York City.” (Hat tip to TMZ for first reporting the suit today.) The lawsuit claims that the signature on the release form for the photo was forged. Kennis is asking the band, label XL Recordings, and photographer Tod Brody for at least $2 million for this alleged misappropriation of identity, arguing that “the album design, in which the Photograph is featured prominently, was a substantial factor in generating recognition and buzz for the Contra album, thus increasing sales and profits.”

A rep for the band tells EW they have no comment at this time. A phone call to Kennis’ attorney was not immediately returned. We’ll update you if and when we hear anything more. ‘Til then, what do you think of this story?

UPDATE: More details on the model who’s suing the band, plus the photographer’s response

More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
Amy Winehouse says third album will be ready “in six months at most”
Carlos Santana’s ‘Guitar Heaven’: Full tracklist revealed
Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” still on top of Billboard Hot 100
Jay Sean’s “2012″: Late-summer anthem?

Comments (50 total) Add your comment
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  • Hans M.

    Fudge. Busted. Well, we shall see how things ultimately play out.

    It was a striking image from the get-go, and I do recall the positive response to the minimalist cover art. It looks great vinyl-sized too!

    • zara

      See, in a normal country the judge would just be like, “ma’am, are you nuts? $2 million because they used your old photo? Really?”

      But in America, the judge will probably award her an additional 2 million for emotional distress and psychological trauma.

  • Erinn

    Do you really think that the band knew that the signature was forged? Nope. How are they at fault?

    • ann

      EXACTLY what I was thinking. And besides – could it be possible that people actually bought the album for the MUSIC and not the picture? I think so. Silly lawsuit.

    • j

      what they knew and their intent has nothing to do with it – if this is true (and I have no idea if it is or not), then she is entitled to some compensation. This was a professional modeling shot, after all, regardless of when it was taken. A model posing for an album cover would have been paid something. I don’t know about $2 mil, but she is entitled to something. They’ll probably settle.

    • LilyL

      She HAS to include the band in the lawsuit for 2 reasons.
      1) Even though you are probably right and the band didn’t know the signature was forced, she doesn’t _know_ that. They are going to figure out who was at fault through the lawsuit.
      2) Perhaps she also wants an injuction to get the band to stop using her photo. Even if she knows they aren’t at fault, she would need to include them

  • andy a

    This girl is lame. Do you think that people are buying their album because she’s on it? She should be paying them $2 million for making her famous.

    • Peter

      Yeah, I actually do think that.

  • mark

    are u kidding me? if i had my face on an album cover, accidentally or not, i wouldn’t be complaining

    • Brenda Barrett

      I think you’d want to be compensated for it. I would. (Although $2M is absurd, of course.)

    • Matt

      If someone put my face on the cover of an album that terrible i’d shoot them

      • P-reston

        srew you vampire weekend is the bomb dot com.

  • brody

    well, if they really did use her image without her permission, then she has a right to sue. i guess we’ll see what happens. :-/

    • S.O.

      If she’s not getting some type of royalties for the album cover, then yes she has a right to sue. But her argument for suing does sound ridiculous.

      • graeme

        Agreed. Her statement that her image “increased sales” is ridiculous…that being said, the band shouldn’t have used the image without her permission. She has every right to sue…and win.

  • walkingfree

    Perhaps the image belongs to the agency that hired her as a model in 1983. Models do not automatically own any image of them as they were paid for posing by the ones that hired her image. All we really know is that she is a … poser! hahahah

  • JT

    Welcome to greedy America. I’m sure VW would have no problem giving her a little $$, but for her to be all diva-like is a bit much. She should be flattered.

  • dee123

    If it was taken in the 80′s she probably bitter she looks nothing like it anymore.

  • leytpr4

    This won’t fly. She’s an idiot.

  • Mitch

    As crazy as it sounds, she has a point about the band using her image to sell records. A lot of thought goes into deciding what the cover should look like. I’m sure at least part of that thought process was deciding what might draw the public’s attention. Common sense says that no one is going to buy a cd unless they like the music, but an album cover is still a form of advertising.

    • LilyL

      Exactly. Someone from the band/label obviously liked the photo and that’s why they chose it.

  • Kristi

    Umm, pretty sure I didn’t buy the album for the cover art. But nice try.

    • Kristi

      Though to be fair, she should be compensated for the use of her image.

      • Maureen

        Agreed.

      • ojsimpon

        thanks for being fair kristi! your so smart and polite.
        it’s called stealing someone’s likeness, in this case making an entire mystique out of giant blown up posters they perform in front of. do you have a brain?

    • Peter

      It’s a fairly iconic album cover. I don’t know a single vampire Weekend song, but I knew the picture in question just from the headline.

  • Mitch

    Like I said, common sense you’re going to buy the album if you like the music. On the other hand, there’s obviously a reason why bands (or record labels) choose one album cover over another. Since it’s still a business, I’m sure there were at least some discussions as to how this album cover might appeal to the public vs. another.

    • Sarah Jaben

      Agreed, Mitch.

  • Mitch

    I guess it’s just my cynical view on today’s music industry. I feel like in the old days album covers were only chosen based on what the band thought looked cool. Now I’m sure monetary factors play a much bigger role in the decision process.

  • theBigE

    Who buys albums anymore? Really? You get a tiny picture for your iPod, maybe, but CD sales are so flat I wonder if people even know what album covers look like anymore.

  • Chaz Winterbottom

    Oh my God!!!! Oh my God!!!

    DOUBLE RAINBOW ALL THE WAY!!!

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • eddie

      Chaz said it all

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