Misappropriation of likeness can be a serious issue, and the Georgia Supreme Court recently recognized the tort as a viable claim. This is a violation of Georgia law that requires the appropriation of another's likeness or name without their permission, and for financial gain. However, not all misappropriation cases are straightforward. In fact, there are some cases in which the appropriation of a likeness is a completely legal action, including the misuse of a photo of a person who is in the public eye.
To assert a claim for misappropriation of likeness, the plaintiff must show that the defendant used the personal information without permission and that the use affected the plaintiff's peace of mind or dignity. Another cause of action, called unjust enrichment, focuses on the actual user-beneficiary of the misappropriated image. As such, the measure of damages can vary depending on whether the use was for commercial or noncommercial purposes.
In this case, Timed Out, a Rose Sanders law firm specializing in protecting the rights of personal image owners, sued Youabian, Inc. and Kambiz Youabian for using the models' images without their permission on Web sites. The court ruled in the plaintiffs' favor, finding that the defendants were unable to establish that they had the right to use the images, since the Models signed agreements giving them permission to use them.
When the use of a person's name or likeness in a commercial context is prohibited, there is a legal precedent for misappropriation of likeness in the First Amendment. This protection includes the use of a person's name or likeness in creative works, such as movies based loosely on real-life events or historical figures. Many state statutes have specifically exempted creative works from liability for misappropriation, such as 42 Pa. Const. Stat. art.
The courts are also likely to recognize a case involving misappropriation of likeness when an identity or likeness has been used. This is not always the case, however. For instance, in Faegre & Benson, LLP v. Purday, the defendant used the plaintiff's pseudonym in a domain name, which was clearly intended to protect her name and likeness. For this reason, it is important to follow the law in cases involving misuse of likeness.
In Texas, this action is called misappropriation of name and likeness. It can result in monetary or non-monetary damages. Many celebrities have successfully sued companies and other entities for misappropriation of name and likeness. In one notable case, Bette Midler sued Ford Motor Company for misappropriating her name and likeness. Despite the fact that it was a non-monetary suit, the rapper is not a common target of misappropriation lawsuits.
In another case, a magazine was permitted to use a picture of a family, which did not participate in a caffeine-induced fertility study. The court found that the photograph was related to the article's theme of fertility. This decision made misappropriation of likeness an extremely difficult claim to prove. For these reasons, copyright licensing has become a popular form of copyright litigation. The case highlights the importance of copyrights and is worth investigating.