Rapper gets flak for Jordan Davis shirts

Published On: Feb 24 2014 04:38:06 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 24 2014 11:49:33 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

A rap artist says his effort to bring awareness to Jordan Davis' death is being blown out of proportion.

On Saturday, Donald Daniels shot a rap video with images of Davis on T-shirts and on a flier announcing the shoot.

But the attorney for the Davis family said the family did not support the idea of the rapper using their son's likeness or image for personal gain or profit.

Daniels said there was no money made from the event, dubbed "Turn up for Jordan Davis." Attorneys say as long as that was the case, his legal rights could be protected.

“I was there and they asked me personally for donations for their shirt," said John Phillips, the Davis' attorney. "That means they’re accepting barter for clothing. That’s a problem.”

An artist's drawing of Davis appeared on the shirts as part of a tribute to the 17-year-old who was shot and killed by Michael Dunn. Dunn, who claims self-defense, is awaiting a retrial on a charge of first-degree murder.

Phillips said he had no choice but to issue a cease and desist letter against the Jacksonville rapper after Daniels failed to get permission from Jordan’s parents to use the 17-year-old’s likeliness in their music video.

"It's amazing how you can take something based on positivity and make negative come out of it," Daniels said.

He said he's received flak for using a Google image of Davis on the promotional flier.

The 30-year-old rapper said the law office that represents the Davis family asked him not to use the images because the family did not authorize their use.

But with plans already set to shoot the video, Daniels said it was too late to stop.

"There was nothing done out of disrespect towards the Davis family, to Jordan Davis," Daniels said. "The whole intent was to show his family it's more people here in the city where he got shot at, we are here supporting."

Phillips’ colleague, Reid Hart, also spoke with Daniels about not selling the promotional shirt at the event.

“He said he personally invested in the shirts," Hart said. "(He) expressed great regret not being able to sell those to re-coup his investment, hadn’t sold any at that point. He said that he was waiting to sell them at the actual event in person,” said Hart.

It’s still unclear whether the Davis family will file a civil suit against Daniels. Phillips said the debacle is distracting Jordan’s family from the grieving process.

“They are still protecting their son after (his) death. They don’t want him associated with people trying to take advantage of him,” said Phillips.

According to legal experts, Daniels could make the argument that he was using the image to raise awareness for a political or social purpose, which has the potential to be considered fair game in court.

"If the organizers of this group created their own image and used them on T-shirts for filming the music video, I believe the exception would apply and there would not be a right of publicity claim. However, if they tried to sell those shirts, it would bring the right of publicity claim back to life."

Daniels said no one sold items with Davis' name and likeness attached to it.

John Phillips, the Davis family's attorney, was unavailable for comment Monday.

The Davis family could seek money damages by filing a civil suit if they could prove the rapper made money from the event.