You would think that it would be clear by now – it is not permissible (nor legal) to use celebrities’ names, pictures or likenesses to sell your products or services, unless they consent. Last week, there were two fresh “Right of Publicity” allegations that surfaced:
In the first, Hollywood gossip website TMZ reported that a local Mexicali plastic surgeon, Victor Ramirez, decided to promote his services by putting up a billboard of Kim Kardashian wearing a bikini, without her knowledge or approval.
Earlier in the week, True Blood star (Sam Merlotte’s shape-shifter girlfriend) and “The L Word” actress Janina Gavankar sued a LA clothing company, claiming that the company used her image to promote its plus-sized clothing line, without her permission.
All of this is, of course, entirely unauthorized if the actresses did not agree to have their names and likenesses promoted in this manner. In California, individual privacy rights include the “right of publicity,” and makes it illegal for companies or individuals to use the names or likenesses of others, without their permission.
To be successful, claimants must generally demonstrate that there was a use, for profit, of the individual’s identity, without consent, that resulted in injury to the individual. There are several exceptions, such as the use of or likeness to report news-worthy events, or a use that is so “transformative” that its primary value is not derived from the celebrity’s fame.
The Plastic Surgery billboard does not appear to make the cut (no pun intended). Although TMZ reported that KK was considering whether to bring suit, the big issue is probably going to be whether it is worth the time to pursue Dr. Ramirez thorugh the Mexican court system.
For Gavankar, on the other hand, it may be too early to tell. Her lawsuit against Jasmine USA and its CEO, David Youshouafar, is underway LA Superior Court for now, and it will be seen whether the allegations are fact or fiction.