Prince’s Personal Photographer Loses Lawsuit Over Prince Photographs

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An appeals court in the United States in recent times found that a business owner had an implied copyright right to distribute marketing materials that featured photographs of the late singer Prince captured by the longtime photographer.

Allen Beaulieu was Prince’s photographer from 1979 until 1984. He photographed album covers and the three tours around the world for Prince. In 2014, Beaulieu began to work on the publication of his photos. He enlisted Thomas Martin Crouse to help write the captions and stories. He also hired then Clint Stockwell, who worked on scanning and storing the digital copies of his photos.

In April of 2016, Prince died, leading Crouse and Stockwell to anticipate the possibility of an increase in curiosity about Beaulieu’s photography. In May of 2016 Beaulieu presented Stockwell numerous additional photos to digitalize for inclusion within the volume. Stockwell sent an MP4 slide show of the selected photos along with a press release sent to a number of investors.


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Beaulieu’s relationship together with Stockwell and Crouse was a failure and Beaulieu sought his photos back. His lawyer was able to get some of them from Stockwell’s house however, Beaulieu was of the opinion that Stockwell still had a substantial amount of photographs. The lawsuit was filed in the name of Crouse, Stockwell, his company as well as Charles Sanvik, one of the investors who had been provided with an informational slide show and press announcement.

Beaulieu filed claims for the conversion of his property, alleging the property was a victim of trespass, and that Crouse and Stockwell were in possession of his photos in a way that unfairly took them away from Beaulieu. However, Beaulieu couldn’t present the court with an inventory listing the quantity of photographs he provided to Crouse and Stockwell as well as the number they returned to him, or even how many remain being held by them. In this regard, the court of district dismissed his claim to conversion, ruling that it was too speculation about the property that he claimed to be transformed.

Beaulieu also filed copyright claims against Stockwell and claimed that Stockwell copied his photos without permission when he produced the slideshow on MP4 as well as the press release. The court of district appeals rejected the claim, stating that Beaulieu had granted an implied licence to use his photographs to be used for the use. A implied license means one that’s not explicitly written or granted but may be implied by the course of behavior. In this instance, Stockwell had sent the slideshow and press announcement to Beaulieu prior to time , and had stated that it was an element of the book’s marketing strategy. Beaulieu did not object and requested that additional publishers be contact on behalf of him. As Beaulieu was determined to have given an implied license to use of copyrighted photos in this manner and his infringement complaint was dismissed. Beaulieu then appealed the decision however, it was the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed the district court’s decision.

Then, Beaulieu brought a claim for tortious interference that resulted in economic benefit. The law requires for the “interference” must be “improper,” that is, it must have its basis in an action legally recognized as illegal. But, since this court already had rejected both the conversion claim as well as the copyright infringement claim it was not an “improper” action, and the claim was dismissed in the court of district.

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