The photographer who shot the iconic “Pulp Fiction” movie poster — featuring actor Uma Thurman seductively smoking a cigarette — waited too long to file his copyright infringement suit against Miramax, a judge has ruled in tossing out his claims.
Acclaimed photographer Firooz Zahedi filed suit in a federal court in Central California in May 2020 against Miramax and a slew of retailers alleging that the company — founded by disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein — used the image on “untold thousands of consumer products.”
Zaheda claimed that violated a contract that limited use to promoting the film at the time of its release in 1994.
Zahedi — who was paid $10,000 to take the photo of Thurman depicting character Mia Wallace — was once gifted an action figure of Wallace in 2015 that had packaging with his picture on it and was given a pair of socks with his photo on them in 2019 — eventually prompting him to file suit, according to the decision from last week.
Justice Dolly Gee found that Zahedi was on notice about Miramax’s alleged unauthorized use of his photo going back to when he received the action figure and yet he didn’t file suit until five years later — placing his claims outside the statute of limitations, her decision said, which the Hollywood Reporter first reported on.
“Where, as here, Zahedi actually knew that Miramax was exploiting a photograph of which he claimed ownership without giving him credit or royalties, his failure to bring suit to assert his ownership rights is fatal to his case.”
Gee said the case highlights why statute of limitations exist in the first place, noting that much of the relevant records in the case — like Miramax’s concept sketches for the photo and an alleged written agreement — have been lost and that “witnesses’ memories and Miramax'[s] institutional memory, have faded.”
Gee granted Miramax’s request to dismiss the case.
Still, the legal dispute will continue on Miramax’s counterclaims against Zahedi for his allegedly unauthorized use of the photo as both sides duke it out over who has the rights to the image.
Zahedi put the photo on the back cover of a book of his works and he sold prints of the photo through galleries.
Zahedi’s lawyer, Scott Burroughs, declined to comment and didn’t say whether his client planned to appeal. Miramax’s lawyers didn’t immediately return a request seeking comment.