Ralph Lauren Corp. and HBO asked a judge Friday to toss a lawsuit by a Russian supermodel who says they used her images without permission because they were biographical and matters of public interest.
Anastassia Khozissova claimed in a $20 million November lawsuit that while she stopped modeling for Ralph Lauren in 2014, the company kept using her photos which were featured in HBO documentary “Very Ralph,” in two books about the designer and were hung inside a store in Moscow and another on the Upper West Side.
The prolific designer is not personally named as a defendant in the case.
HBO lawyer Katherine Bolger argued during a video hearing in the case Friday that the movie wasn’t an advertisement for the fashion brand but rather it was about the career of the designer and therefore Khozissova doesn’t have a legal right to seek damages.
“The documentary subject is clearly a matter of public interest,” Bolger said. “A documentary about fashion is newsworthy and that’s the end of the case.”
Bolger also argued that the images of Khozissova — who is the ex-girlfriend of South African sprinter and convicted killer Oscar Pistorius — were merely used in the background and that Khozissova wasn’t the topic of the documentary but rather Lauren’s career was.
“Here there is more than one appearance of the plaintiff in the background but altogether they equal 38 seconds of a 1-hour-and-48-minute documentary,” Bolger said. “The use of her likeness is incidental and rapid.”
Similarly, Ralph Lauren Corp. lawyer Andrea Calvaruso argued that the images of Khozissova in books about the designer were “not to promote the sale of Ralph Lauren products … but rather to tell the story of Mr. Lauren’s personal biography.”
Calvaruso also noted that photos of the model at two stores “were meant to be decorative art. They were pretty pictures of the runway.”
Neither the books nor the images in the stores, “constitute advertising,” Calvaruso said.
Khozissova’s lawyer, Salman Ismat, argued that none of the defendants’ arguments were relevant so early in the case before either side started collecting discovery and he asked the judge to deny their motions to dismiss the lawsuit.
“They are asking the court to make a number of determinations that are not appropriate at this stage,” Ismat argued. “Whether or not her appearances were fleeting, decorative or advertising — these are things that I don’t think can be determined at this stage without discovery.”
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Andrea Masley said that she would issue a written decision at a later date.
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