Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Beyonce, Pharrell, Rihanna, Jay-Z, and Kanye West Sue Over Use of their Images and Names on Merchandise

By Professor Jennifer Rothman

This commentary originally appeared on the website, Rothman's Roadmap to the Right of Publicity.

These megastars sued Eleven LLC for using their names and images in a variety of merchandise, including t-shirts, hats, and cell phone covers. Some of the images evoked Hitler and some of the items used lyrics from the artists’ songs...Look for a settlement in this one.
Looks like promising claims as to false endorsement and right of publicity.  Somewhat less convincing is the defamation claim from adult-oriented models that association with the strip club would subject them to “hatred, shame, . . .ridicule, aversion, ostracism, degradation . . . and/or could induce an evil opinion of Plaintiffs in the minds of right-thinking persons, and/or could deprive each Plaintiff of confidence and friendly intercourse in society.”  Perhaps the complaint itself defames adult entertainers.
Greene was featured in convicted felon Jordan Belfort's memoir upon which the Martin Scorsese movie was based. The movie, however, did not use the plaintiff's name or likeness, but instead created an amalgamated character derived from several real individuals, including the plaintiff. The court therefore rejected Greene's claim because under New York’s privacy statute, N.Y. Civil Rights Law § 51, such claims are limited to uses of the actual name or likeness of an individual. Merely evoking the person’s identity is not sufficient to state a claim.  This treatment of the privacy-based right under New York law differs from the interpretation of right of publicity laws in some other states, notably under California's common law.

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