A photographer is suing Guns ‘N’ Roses and their management for copyright infringement and sexual harassment allegedly perpetrated by the band’s manager Fernando Lebeis.
Katarina Benzova filed a lawsuit on Saturday (November 11) which states that she worked on a freelance basis for Guns ‘N’ Roses between 2010 and 2022 across 364 concerts.
Guns N’ Roses, Gundam LLC (the band’s business and holding company), Team Brazil and Lebeis are listed as the defendants in the case.
The suit claims that the band and their team committed copyright infringement on Benzova’s photos “through the reproduction, public display, distribution, creation of derivative works, and holding out of Benzova’s photographs for licenses and sale to third party publications after termination of any right to do so,” and altered various photographs in order to cover infringement and falsely claim ownership of them.
Benzova also alleges in the suit that Lebeis had made unwanted sexual advances towards her on numerous occasions since he began managing Guns ‘N’ Roses in 2016. The suit claims Lebeis became aggressive and hostile when Benzova repeatedly rejected him, and it even escalated to “name-calling, ridicule, demeaning remarks, humiliation, bullying, and lying.”
In addition, Benzova alleges that Lebeis eventually lowered her fee without notifying her, withheld payments from her, moved her to cheaper hotels during travel, demanded she pay out of pocket for travel expenses that Team Brazil promised to cover and refused to credit her for her photos.
Furthermore, she claims that her efforts to use written contracts with the band were ignored. Lebeis allegedly cut ties with her in October 2022 citing various reasons including “budgetary concerns.” Benzova believes that Lebeis discriminated against her because she rejected his alleged sexual advances, and claims another photographer for the band, Jarmo, wasn’t treated in the same way as she was.
Guns ‘N’ Roses issued a statement in response to Loudwire. “Ms. Benzova was initially contracted to provide tour photography services for Guns N’ Roses in 2010. She worked with the band for 12 years and was paid and treated extraordinarily well,” they said. “It was only after her services were discontinued in 2022 that she attempted to claim ownership in photos which her contract clearly states are owned by the band.
“The band takes these types of claims very seriously however all evidence establishes these accusations are categorically and unequivocally false. This response from her comes after the band initiated suit against Ms. Benzova for falsely asserting ownership in the photos of the band.”
Loudwire was also provided with a copy of the band’s own lawsuit, which was filed on October 24 and claims copyright invalidity, non-ownership and non-infringement, particularly stating that Benzova had “falsely alleged copyright infringement against various persons and entities” in March 2023.
Their suit alleges that Benzova had agreed when she was first employed in 2010 that Waterhead International, Inc., which manages Guns N’ Roses’ tours in addition to Gundam LLC, would be the exclusive owner of all of Benzova’s works on behalf of the band.
The lawsuit further states that Benzova entered a “Crew Member Employment Memorandum” with Gundam in 2016, which read, ““You [i.e., Benzova] acknowledge and agree that the results and proceeds of your services rendered during the Term will be on a ‘work-for-hire’ basis. We [i.e., Gundam Productions] shall own the copyrights and all intellectual property rights to all of the video and photographs created by you during the term of your employment. In addition, we [i.e., Gundam Productions] shall have the right, but not the obligation to use your name, likeness, voice and biographical material in connection with the results and proceeds of your services hereunder.”
Lebeis has not yet responded to the allegations.