This photo of Machine Gun Kelly is now at the center of a big legal battle ... thanks to the photographer ... who claims the rapper's manager STOLE it from him to make crappy t-shirts.
Dario Calmese filed the lawsuit in New York, claiming he initially shot the MGK photo in 2012 for a limited edition t-shirt line with clothing company Black Apple (above) -- emphasis on "limited."
During production, Dario claims Black Apple submitted the photo to MGK's manager Byron Kirkland for final approval ... and everything appeared hunky dory.
The Black Apple tees hit the market without a hitch -- but soon after, Dario claims the mug shot photo began to surface on cheap knockoff t-shirts around the web, including at online stores Spencer's Gifts and Live Nation Worldwide.
Now Dario is pissed ... claiming Byron hijacked the photo for his own personal t-shirt production -- outside of Black Apple -- not only using the pic without his permission, but cutting him out of the action as well.
Dario wants everyone (except Black Apple) to STOP producing the mug shot tees stat. He's suing Live Nation, Spencer's, Byron Kirkland and more ... demanding a bunch of money.