Janine "Jah Jah" Gordon, the photographer and rapper who last year sued hipster lensman Ryan McGinley for copying her style, has decided to represent herself in a legal appeal challenging the court decision that threw her case out. In August of 2011, Southern District Court judge Richard Sullivan ruled that there was "no substantial similarity" between her work and McGinley's, though Gordon claimed that McGinley stole his subject matter (semi-dressed young people), coloring techniques (saturated hues), and compositions (angled) from her work.
ARTINFO was able to get a hold of a copy of Gordon's appeal. "The District Court improperly dismissed my law suit because it did not apply the copyright law correctly," it reads, adding that the previous decision "exhibited a lack of intrinsic comprehension of art, and its expression or intended expression." Gordon claims that the court ignored the copyrightable elements of her work and that its judgement rested on the content rather than the stylistic decisions of her photographs: "the District Court’s focus on the similarity in subject matter, which was only part of my artistic choice, was a great error."
Gordon's appeal also argues that judge Sullivan may have had a conflict of interest in officiating the case, as he had worked in the past with Levi Strauss (the company is McGinley's co-defendant in the case, along with Team gallery, fashion house Agnes B., and others). Sullivan was an associate at the law firm that handled the merger and acquisition of Levi Strauss and Co. and was the chief in-house litigator at management firm Marsh & McLennan companies, “which is also associated with Levi Strauss,” the appeal reads.
The defendants, however, seem confident of the original ruling, and are pressing on with a previously filed countersuit against Gordon for legal fees. "It is unfortunate that she is forcing the defendants to brief this issue, but Ms. Gordon insists on plodding ahead with what we view to be a frivolous appeal," Jack A. Gordon (no relation to Jah Jah, he clarifies) of Kent, Beatty & Gordon, LLP says in a statement to ARTINFO. Though Janine Gordon claims poverty and likely wouldn't be able to pay fees, "an order awarding costs to the defendants is about all we can hope for in these unfortunate circumstances."
"After all," the lawyer continues, "the courts are available to everyone, even those with no lawyers and no viable claims."