Jessica Alba vs. Playboy

Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson

With the possible exception of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, there is possibly no higher honor for a female pop culture staple than to grace the cover of Playboy magazine. Some women work their entire careers to land a Playboy cover, but Jessica Alba is not one of them.

Playboy used a publicity photo from Alba’s summer 2005 movie, “Into the Blue,” as a photo for its “Sex and Music” issue, which ranked Alba as the year’s sexiest celebrity. While Alba was used as the cover girl, she did not appear nude inside.

A similar situation occurred in March 2005 when Playboy declared Paris Hilton as the “Sex Star of the Year.”

The Hilton family were not happy about Hilton’s photo being used for the cover reported

“Jessica Alba was chosen as the sexiest star of the year by our readers through a poll conducted online,” Playboy representative Lauren Melone said in a statement released to the press. “Our editors assembled photographs of the top 25 vote-getters for our annual ’25 Sexiest Celebrity’ feature, and decided to put her on the cover based on the poll results.”

When Alba saw herself on the cover of the March edition of the popular men’s magazine, she publicly complained.

Playboy argued that it had every right to use the photo on its cover.

According to a Reuters report, Alba accuses Playboy of violating her rights and misleading the public by obtaining a publicity photo of “Into the Blue” from Sony Pictures, and then superimposing a bunny logo on her bikini top.

There is no word whether Alba will attempt any legal action, but the situation raises an interesting question: What are the standards on photo copyrights?

“(Alba) probably doesn’t have any recourse at all, “said Greg Latza, a Sioux Falls photographer.

Since she is a public figure, she can be shown on tabloid covers and magazines without any recourse, he said.

The actual ownership of the photo can be complicated, though. Originally the photo belongs to the photographer.

“The copyright belongs to the creator of the photograph immediately when the photo is taken,” said Latza.

Copyrights can be given away, though.

A photo doesn’t always belong to the creator.

“If you’re on the paper’s clock and you’re getting paid by the paper, you’re basically work for hire,” Latza said. “Now, as soon as you’re off the clock, you can go ahead and freelance and do that on your own time.”

Everything depends on the kind of contract you sign, he said.

These laws apply to graduation photos, as well.

“If you take your graduation picture to Harold’s and ask them to make enlargments, you’ll find out that you can’t do that,” said Lloyd Cun-ningham, senior staff photographer at the Argus Leader.

It’s possible for a company to purchase all copyrights of a photo, but it’s also possible for a company to purchase one-time rights or simply license the rights to a photo.

The Argus Leader obtains its photos in a variety of ways.

“The photos (that are) not staff-generated typically come from the Associated Press,” Cun-ningham said.

Photography created by a staff photographer while on duty belongs to the Argus Leader.

The paper also purchases one-time rights from photographers.

“Buying it from you for permanent use would cost us more money than it would be worth,” Cunningham said.

How the photo is used also can be a topic of debate.

If a photographer licenses or rents the rights to a photo, Latza said, then he will probably have more input on how the photo is used.

Roger Toll, executive vice president of legal affairs at Sony’s Columbia Pictures unit, is making his complaints known.

In a letter that appeared on The Smoking Gun Web site, Toll claimed that Playboy gave the impression that the picture would be used only inside the magazine.

Toll demands an apology both for Alba and Sony. He ends the letter with the statement, “Sony reserves all of its rights and remedies arising out of these circumstances.”

According to, Alba’s lawyer Brian Wolf says that Playboy initially offered to pay Alba to pose for a cover photo, but she declined.

Citing “immeasurable harm” by the photo placement on the cover of the magazine, he is requesting a “monetary settlement” in a lawsuit.