The Practical Problems of Image Rights

24th January 2018 By Dr Angela Adrian

First, actress, Katherine Heigl sued New York City-based drugstore chain Duane Reade for $6 million for tweeting a paparazzi image of her carrying two Duane Reade shopping bags, along with the following text: “Love a quick #DuaneReade run? Even @KatieHeigl can’t resist shopping #NYC’s favorite drugstore.” She alleges Duane Reade “misused and misappropriated [the] photograph for its own commercial advertising, distributing the photo with Duane Reade’s own promotion slogans on its Twitter and Facebook accounts, all without Ms. Heigl’s knowledge or approval.” Second, model, Sofia Richie has been sued by Backgrid celebrity photo agency for posting pictures of herself on Instagram. Backgrid is claiming copyright infringement on several of the images which Ms. Richie shared wi... Read More

Why Black Cabs need Image Rights

By Dr Angela Adrian

The Role of Image Rights to Corporate Entities - The Case of the Black Cab Most successful businesses tend to become incorporated entities. Image rights, although initially a personal concept, have expanded to encompass legal entities, and can now be treated as a separate class of intellectual property rights - one that provides a safety net to all other intellectual property rights. On November 1, 2017, the English Court of Appeal [2017] EWCA Civ 1729 rejected the London Taxi Company's (LTC) appeal against a finding that the 3D trademark and design right were invalid. The Court held that the city's famous black cabs lack distinctive character. Had the LTC registered their image rights in Guernsey under the Image Rights Ordinance 2012 (IRO), they would have been protected from the in... Read More

The Immortal Carrie Fisher a.k.a Princess Leia

By Dr Angela Adrian

The passing of Carrie Fisher (October 21, 1956 – December 27, 2016) has caused an unprecedented stir in Hollywood - most notably due to the reprisal of her role as Princess Leia in 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens and in speculation over her character's return in yet-to-be-filmed episodes. Filmmakers have been utilizing advances in digital technology to resurrect characters after a performer dies. Another from the Star Wars cannon, Grand Moff Tarkin, originally played by long-dead actor, Peter Cushing, was recreated in the recent Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I would like to pause here and quote her speech at the 2005 AFI Lifetime Achievement Awards ceremony. The award was being presented to George Lucas. "Hi, I’m Mrs. Han Solo, and I’m an alcoholic. I’m an alcoholic be... Read More

How to build an iconic personality:

By Angela Adrian

What do you do when your entire company is built around one product – one image – one personality? An iconic personality, or perhaps just a well-known image within its own sphere of influence. You have followed all of the rules and laws so that you can protect this property, then the Court rules that, in fact, you do not have such protection. This has happened to the Rubik’s Cube and to Lego blocks. Their three-dimensional trademarks failed them. For years, they had believed that their registrations protected them. Only to discover that when a copycat arrived on the scene and complained, their intellectual property rights actual meant nothing. For more than twenty years and in various jurisdictions, LEGO has been trying to protect its LEGO bricks and related product lines using... Read More


By Keith Laker

Barely a fortnight has elapsed since the passing of Prince and already details are emerging regarding what could be one of the biggest examples of failing to plan ahead for the exploitation of image rights following the death of a celebrity. Prince Rogers Nelson left no will, which hugely increases the likelihood for dissent and opportunism amongst those that think they may have some claim against his estate.  Reports suggest his estate is currently worth $300 million but the real value of Prince’s legacy may be those fees yet to be earned from future exploitation of his image.  Prince’s personality checks all the boxes in terms of supremely exploitable image rights: he was still hugely popular at the time of his death, his audience is global, his style was quirky, unique and an... Read More

Your Face is Big Data – and valuable!

By Keith Laker

In a widely reported story this week, Russian photographer Egor Tsvetkov provided evidence in a paper entitled 'Your Face is Big Data' as to just how easy it is to identify individuals from photographs posted on line.   Using the face-recognition website Find Face, Tsvetkov was able to discover extensive personal information about many of the otherwise anonymous photos he had taken. Cara McGoogan’s article in the Telegraph provides one of the more detailed descriptions of Tsvetkov’s findings. This is not just a privacy issue.  Big companies are already masters of Big Data and as this type of facial recognition software improves – as it inevitably will – it will mean that targeted advertising becomes even more widespread and specific.   No longer will it be based on your phy... Read More

Free Speech + Fair Use ≠ Free Use. Free Speech + Fair Dealing → Fair Speech

By Dr Angela Adrian

In 2014, Paul Weller won £10,000 in damages against Associated Newspapers (which owns the Daily Mail) for publishing seven unpixellated photographs of his children online at the Daily Mail website (Weller v Associated Newspapers [2014] EWHC 1163 (QB)). Associated Newspapers then appealed this holding, Weller & Ors v Associated Newspapers Limited [2015] EWCA Civ 1176, which was dismissed and barred from further appeal to the Supreme Court. Associated Newspaper claimed that this decision created an “image right” (to date, image rights are not recognised in English law) which would have “wide-ranging and serious consequences not only for local, national and international digital journalism but for anyone posting pictures of children on social networks” (Weller). A publisher’s a... Read More

Privacy is not a Privilege it is the Prince’s Right

The following article is reproduced by kind permission of the British Monarchist Society.  It was first published in October 2014.  The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have threatened legal action if a certain photographer allegedly continues to stalk their son, Prince George. The position of the photographer is that he will continue to take photographs of the Prince when he is in a public area. There is a simplistic and self-serving argument that anything that the famous do is in the public interest. The genuine public interest, in terms of what is the common weal, is thus conflated with the prurience of some members of the public. Another part of this argument is that when someone is in public then they should not be able to escape the scrutiny of the media, whatever that scrutiny ex... Read More

Royal Children – Curbing the Paparazzi

By Keith Laker

The latest communication from Kensington Palace represents a heartfelt plea on behalf of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to respect the privacy of Prince George and Princess Charlotte. In an open letter to the media released today, Communication Secretary Jason Knauf relates the extreme lengths to which one paparazzi photographer went to obtain images of the Royal Prince.   In a description more reminiscent of a spy thriller, he relates how the photographer  “… rented a car and parked in a discreet location outside a children's play area.  Already concealed by darkened windows, he took the added step of hanging sheets inside the vehicle and created a hide stocked with food and drinks to get him through a full day of surveillance, waiting in hope to capture images of Prince Geo... Read More

Protecting children from the spotlight of fame: enhancing the California Paparazzi Bill with Registered Personality Rights.

By Keith Laker

Between 1999 and 2014, California introduced a raft of legislation collectively known as the (anti) Paparazzi laws. In September 2013, Senate Bill No. 606 was signed by the State Governor of California, Jerry Brown. Unlike the earlier bills, which were drafted with the privacy of celebrities in mind, Senate Bill 606 was intended to deal with the very specific problem of paparazzi photographing celebrity children. It was the result of considerable lobbying by various celebrities including Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner; both of whom testified before a state assembly committee as to why they believed this law was necessary. Eighteen months on from its introduction, the question to be asked is ‘has it been effective?’ We consider the advantages and shortcomings of Senate Bill No. 606... Read More