Owners sue over Empire State Building topless photos

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AJ58M4 Empire State Building and Manhattan in the Afternoon Sun

The owners of the Empire State Building have filed a $1.1 million legal case against a man who took topless photos of a model on top of the iconic tower. He didn't have permission, and shot a series of photographs in front of shocked tourists.

Could this become the most famous photo shoot on the building?


The case

The building's owners say that he did not have permission to take the photos there. The building is owned by property investment vehicle, the Empire State Realty Trust, which makes money from leasing the offices, holding events, and selling the trademarked image of the building. It says the photographer did not arrange or pay for the latter.

Given that the photo shoot took place at an incredibly busy time in August last year, they also claim that the photo shoot threatened their ability to ensure a safe, secure and appropriate place for families and tourists. They are seeking the $1.1 million in damages.

The photographer argued that they were harmless photographs taken for personal use, with the camera on his phone. He said he hasn't sold them or made any money from them and this was not a commercial photo shoot. According to the Mirror he only heard about the case on the news, and hasn't hired a lawyer to defend himself.

He told the BBC: "We thought it would just be wonderful, a great view... no harm no foul," he added. "Nobody was injured, no children were around."

Famous pictures of the building

The story has gained some press attention, and the photo is being sent around social media. However, if it's going to become the most famous shot of the building, it has stiff competition.

The Yeah Yeah Yeah's shot the first ever pop video on top of the building last year - for their single Despair. They weren't the first to apply for the opportunity, but they were the first to submit a request that the owners considered to be suitable.

The films shot there range from iconic titles like King Kong, An Affair to Remember and Sleepless in Seattle to Annie Hall, Oblivion, On the Waterfront, Taxi Driver, The Producers and Elf. It even made a brief appearance in Doctor Who in 2007.

There have also been a number of wedding videos shot there, as each year the owners of the building hold a competition where people can compete to have their wedding at the Empire State Building on Valentine's Day. They have to send details of their love story - which are expected to be original, creative and hopefully feature the building.

But perhaps the oddest film of the building was made by Andy Warhol in 1964. The silent black-and-white film, Empire, consists of more than eight hours of slow motion footage of the building - in a single static shot.

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