After publisher Condé Nast hit them with a lawsuit for promoting fake cover story in the heralded magazine to market their new album, Her Loss, the rappers have “voluntarily ceased and desisted” from all uses of the Vogue cover and trademark as well as the name, image or likeness of editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and any false or misleading statements concerning the magazine to promote the album. This includes taking down all public displays of the fake cover, including online and social media posts and any physical copies. Importantly, all of those actions were required under a temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge on Nov. 10 backing up the publisher’s lawsuit.
The new document, filed in New York federal court on Thursday (Nov. 17), notes that Drake and 21 Savage agreed only to take down the image “to avoid unnecessary cost and expense” while they continue to fight the case. The filing explicitly noted they were not “conceding any liability” or “wrongdoing” in the matter.
The fake Vogue cover was one of several fake promos for Her Loss, which dropped Nov. 4. These so-called deepfakes also included sham appearances by the rappers on NPR’s Tiny Desk series and The Howard Stern Show.
Though Tiny Desk greeted the stunt with good humor — even inviting the rappers to appear on the show for real — and Stern joked about the incident on his SiriusXM series, Condé Nast was less than amused. In a complaint filed Nov. 9, the publisher’s lawyers characterized the stunt as a “flagrant infringement” of the company’s trademark rights, designed to exploit the “tremendous value that a cover feature in Vogue magazine carries” without actually being granted that privilege. The suit demanded an immediate injunction forcing the rappers, along with Drake’s PR agency Hiltzik Strategies, which was named as a co-defendant, to cease all uses of the “counterfeit cover.”
On Nov. 10, the Condé Nast lawsuit was followed by a temporary restraining order issued by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who ruled the fake cover was likely violating the publisher’s trademarks because Drake and 21 were “misleading consumers” and “deceiving the public.” Notably, such restraining orders are only granted to plaintiffs who are deemed likely to win their case.
One particular point of contention outlined in the complaint was an Instagram post by Drake teasing the fake cover story, in which the superstar personally thanked Wintour for the honor. In the suit, Condé Nast’s lawyers wrote that Vogue and Wintour in fact “had no involvement in Her Loss or its promotion, and have not endorsed it in any way” and that the publisher did not “authorize, much less support,” the release of “a counterfeit version of perhaps one of the most carefully curated covers in all of the publication business.”
The lawyers went on to write that the deep fake was so convincing that several media outlets reported that the cover was in fact real, adding, “The confusion among the public is unmistakable.”
As the legal drama continues to unfold, Drake and 21 Savage may argue that the fake media blitz was meant as a parody of the way media and artists work together to promote album launches; in some circumstances, laws allow for the proliferation of such spoofs without repercussion. That may be a difficult argument to make, however. As Condé Nast noted in its lawsuit, the fake Vogue issue disseminated both online and physically represented “a complete, professionally reprinted reproduction” of the magazine, with “no indication that it is anything other than the cover of an authentic Vogue issue.”
Condé Nast did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest filing.
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