Snoop Dogg doesn't understand photography copyrizzle

Snoop Dogg
(Image credit: Instagram @Worldstar)

If you take a photograph of somebody, that picture doesn't actually belong to you. Instead, what you're doing is borrowing that person's likeness. Which means that not only can that person use the picture without paying you, but they should be immune from being sued for doing so – and in fact, they should get paid simply for being in it. 

That's the world according to Calvin Broadus, aka Snoop Dogg. The hip-hop superstar was commenting on the lawsuit brought against fellow rapper Nas (Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones) by photographer Al Pereira.

Nas infringed Pereira's copyright when he uploaded a famous photo of himself to his Instagram account, pictured with with rappers 2Pac (Tupac Shakur, now deceased) and Redman (Reginald Noble) taken by the photographer in 1993.

"How is a motherf**ker suing Nas for a picture that he in?" barked Snoop in a video posted to WorldStar Hip Hop (below). You photographers done lost your motherf**king rabbit-ass minds, motherf**ker. 

"When you take a picture of a n**ger, that picture ain't yours – that's a mere likeness situation. You're borrowing my likeness. How you gon' sue Nas for a picture that he in? We need some new laws to help us as artists, man, because there's a bunch of motherf**kers selling pictures with my face on it and I don't get shit. Cause they took the picture. Can anybody help me with that? Just a basic question." 

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Indeed it is a basic question, Mr Dogg, and we can in fact help you with it. Unless agreed otherwise, the copyright of a photograph belongs to the photographer who captured it. And insofar as likeness rights go, when someone is in a public space, no permissions or likeness agreements are required by law.

Of course, Instagram users also chimed in with their own 'help'. 

"Possession is nine tenths of the law.. they possess the picture or file they own it.. stop confusing the youth" said "If thats the case Barbers should be able to sue for haircuts that are in celeb pictures too" added truththebarberartist.

Others had a slightly better grip on the facts. "Your argument is like saying when you rap on a beat, those words aren't yours," noted gadgetsjon. "Did you invent English? No. You're just 'borrowing the language'. Doesn't make sense does it?" Perhaps de.nnis8324 had the best advice when he simply said, "Take your own pictures then." (In which case, we can point you towards the best cameras for Instagram (opens in new tab).)

Sorry, Snoop. Perhaps, as you noted with the title of your sixth album, sometimes you've just got to pay the cost to be the boss.

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.