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Paris Court Hits Galliano with $275K Fine for Plagiarism

Godfrey Deeny
April 20th, 2007 @ 00:27 AM - Paris

A Paris court has ruled that John Galliano “copied” the work of photographer William Klein, and ordered the designer to pay 200,000 Euros in damages, or $275,000.

The ruling by judge Claude Vallet, issued on March 28, but first reported in Paris daily Le Monde’s April 20 edition, decided that Galliano’s advertisements for his own label, too clearly resembled a technique that Klein had developed called “painted contacts” where contact sheet images are blown-up and covered by streaks of brash color.

The Galliano ad campaign used photography laid out like an enlarged contact sheet and covered with broken double yellow lines. The UK designer’s ad campaign had already appeared in the March issues of French Vogue and Numero, as well as publications in the UK and Russia.

Klein, who developed this technique 15 years ago, sued Galliano for breach of intellectual copyright. Galliano’s lawyer argued during the trial that the ads did not resemble any particular image by the photographer.

Klein is a highly regarded figure in France. His 1965 dramatic comedy film “Who Are You Polly Maggoo” is regarded by many as the greatest “fashion film” ever made. Klein was also honored by a 2005 retrospective in the Pompidou Center, Europe’s most visited modern art museum. That show contained giant 20-foot high reproductions of Klein’s contact sheets bearing their hallmark, lacquered colors

In the ruling, Judge Vallet wrote, “the disputed ads reproduce the characteristic composition of “contact prints” in all the elements that define their originality.” The judge divided up the fine into two parts: 150,000 Euros for breach of intellectual copyright and 50,000 Euros for moral damage. Judge Vallet also ruled that Galliano, at his own expense, must publish the decision in three of the magazines in which the ads had run.

The Galliano campaign was for the designer’s second line, named Galliano, and shot by Julien d’Ys, who is better known as a hair stylist. The ads featured currently red-hot English model Agyness Deyn.

In an interview with Le Monde Klein told the daily that he discovered the ads when a friend asked him, “William, why did you create this mess for Galliano?”

Galliano’s work for Christian Dior, where he has been creative director of women’s ready-to-wear for a decade, was not part of the trial.

"I am insulted and furious," Klein told Le Monde, adding that he was particularly hurt, as Dior is known for its hard-hitting legal cases against copying of its own designs

Galliano's lawyer Michel-Paul Escande had argued that the ads did not constitute plagiarism because their images did not look like any from Klein's work. The house of Galliano confirmed to FWD that it was appealing the decision, but declined any other comment.

In court, Escande admitted that Galliano’s fashion house had stopped the disputed ad campaign once it had been informed of the litigation, but insisted that this did not represent an admission of guilt.

“How do you explain that you refute a claim of plagiarism when at the same time you pull your campaign?” Klein’s lawyer, Bruno Ryterband reportedly responded.

This dispute looks like having long legs. The giant French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, whose controlling shareholder is the legendarily litigious Bernard Arnault, controls Galliano’s house.

Moreover, Klein’s lawyer Ryterband indicated that the photographer also planned to appeal in an attempt to increase the fine.

So stay tuned.

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