Yesterday Bloomberg Law shared the news that pop singer Ariana Grande has filed a lawsuit against retail chain Forever 21 in the amount of $10 million dollars. She claims that after negotiations to hire her as a spokesperson fell through, the company hired a lookalike rather than pay her fee.
This lawsuit has everyone asking, can she do that. Short answer, yes.
The right of publicity gives each individual the right to say how their likeness is used. You don’t have to register it anywhere. It’s a right that you inertially have. It’s not reserved for just your physical appearance. It covers your name, voice, and any characteristics that identifies you. Right of publicity is not federal like trademarks and copyrights. This means that the laws vary state to state. The purpose of right of publicity is to allow a person to control the exploitation of his or her image in a commercial way.
- Facebook was sued by some of its users who found out their names and profile pictures were being used to advertise Facebook’s services without their permission
- Bette Milder successfully sued the Ford Motor Company for imitating her voice in a commercial. It was the first time anyone had won a right of publicity case for anything other than name of likeness. The court found that when a distinctive voice of a professional singer is widely known and is deliberately imitated in order to sell a product that person should be compensated.
- EA Sports makers of NCAA sports games found this out the hard way after they were sued by NCAA player Ed O’ Bannon, former UCLA basketball player for using his and other players likeness without their permission in 2014. In this case EA Sports paid everyone but the players. The NCAA licensed their name, the schools license the use of their name, jerseys, logos, and stadiums but the players got nada. The players won their lawsuit and EA Sports cut the check
The important thing to know about right of publicity is that it gives you the right to exclude others from making money off of your likeness without your permission.
Everybody has this right. It is not reserved for celebrities and high profile people. This means when you host your next conference you have to get permission from the attendees to use their likeness in videos, pictures, and future advertisement. This is where model releases come in to play.
A Model Release Agreement is a liability waiver signed by the person or persons being photographed. It waives their right to approve or disapproved of the final product and what you do with it. Use a model release form to obtain written permission to use the image of the person being photographed for your blog, marketing material, website, videos, etc. No matter what your relationship is with the other person make sure to have their written permission to use their likeness.
Purchase your Model Release Agreement Template below. Each agreement includes a contract template that can be used multiple time and includes an instructional video.