Rights of Publicity

Some designer with a bad idea just cost their client a boatload of money.

1 Like

Email thread

Are you sure you have the rights to this image?

Yes, it’s fine it’s a fictional character

But it’s still intellectual property and copyrighted

Just use it I’m not paying you enough to argue with me.

You’re not paying me at all, I’m an intern, it costs me to work here

Just use it


1 Like

One hopes that exists… $9M is a lot of money

Would the insurance cover it? How would that work? Be interesting to see if it stays at that figure or be reduced

I don’t think some freelance designers fully realize they’re running commercial businesses that come with all the risks and legal responsibilities of real businesses.

Designers can grab photos, music, fonts, and whatever else off the internet. They can copy other people’s designs. They can fail to separate their businesses from their personal lives. They can play fast and loose with all kinds of things for years and get away with it.

Sooner or later, though, a client will lose money as a result of their bad judgment. The IRS will send a letter demanding explanations. A court summons will appear out of nowhere. Lawyers get involved, settlements or court judgments are made, and the consequences are drained bank accounts, seized assets, and a life-changing disaster.

Sacha Baron Cohen sues the dispensary for several million. A settlement for something less is negotiated. Then the dispensary sues the agency or the freelancer who used Cohen’s image without permission. I don’t know too many freelancers who could afford that bill.

Being sued is part of being in business these days.
We have a saying, “Shit rolls downhill.”
With the idea being not to be the fence at the bottom that catches it.

1 Like

It’s been many years since I was in college, but surely these days, any design school with a decent sense of common knowledge, should always include a class to prepare students on how to avoid copyright infringement. Don’t you think?

Same here, but I don’t think much has changed with their teaching approaches — especially in the fine arts-oriented schools. There, everything seems to focus on making cool-looking stuff.

In graduate school, I had one of my committee advisors tell me that I should have gone to business or law school if I was concerned about this kind of thing. He proceeded to tell me that grad school was a time to be free of the practical concerns of non-academic life — a time to let my creativity flourish without constraints. Seriously, these were almost his exact words. I suspect this attitude is still rampant in some schools.

I used to take interns from the University of Kentucky. I also was asked to speak to Advertising/Marketing students once each semester. The thing that always bothered me most was, their assignments were usually based on hypothetical ad campaigns in the millions of dollars PER AD. (and if the ad didn’t work, it was no big deal.

Realistically, less than 2% of these students will ever work in ad agencies with big-pocket national clients. Most will wind up working in local markets with budgets of $100,000 PER YEAR. And local companies live and die with each ad campaign.

There was no importance put on copyright infringement in college either.

A local competitor of mine found out about infringement importance the hard way. I got a call from a Colorado law firm one day asking if I was handling a certain client. I was not. But two weeks later I learned my competitor was being sued for infringement.

They most likely thought they were safe because the copyright owner would never be concerned about a local company in a local market halfway across the country. The suit almost put them out of business and nearly ruined their reputation.

So you think copyright owners will never find you, huh? … Reading this, you can’t say you were never warned.

1 Like

It would be so beautifully ironic if it were a crowdsource project from that place we love to hate. But they’d just write it off as “not responsible for supplied content” or some such and hang the “freelancer” out to dry.

Herein lay the details of what exactly happened.

Either way - the company who paid for it are probably technically liable to ensure that their adverts don’t contain copyright material/slogans.

They could try sue the designer (if it wasn’t done in-house) but I don’t think it would hold up. Ownership would transfer to the client as soon as payment was made - it’s their responsibility to attain the correct authority to use the image in advertising.

We probably won’t know anything about it as it’s before the courts so cannot be discussed. And if someone does find out and it is before the courts they best not post it here - as it’s an active case.

But I’d say it will be settled out of court for a a fraction of the $9m.

You don’t think they could sue a purported “professional designer” whose job it is to know this stuff? And does said designer know enough to put an ownership transfer in the contract, assuming they even used one?

I’ve seen more than one designer get burned by something like this, not quite this blatant, there are some state-by-state things as far as RoP go that can tangle people up as well. And some estates/agencies can be rabid when it comes to protecting them.

Let’s see if we ever hear more. I’m betting not. Like you say, it’ll probably be quietly settled, but I’m betting for a lot more than you’d expect. The thing about these cases is how do you calculate the damages if you keep it in the news, rendering even more advertising to the place that made the error?

Well keeping it in the news renders more damage to the person suing, I’d imagine. Their image being associated with a company - even in a way to distance themselves still gets association by dissociation.

Anyway - it’s different in different parts of the world. Here in Ireland, I’m 99% sure (not a lawyer), that copyright is retained by the employer, or in this case the employer being the client and the freelancer being the employee.

It would be interesting to hear how it goes. Anyone know a lawyer they can ask?

Would love to know once and for all.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out.

In Ireland, if you hire an electrical contractor to change a light switch, are you responsible for their work? Or do you rely on their expertise and knowledge of local codes?

Oh. Right. Anyone can say they are a designer.

Yeh but that’s different to copyright laws.

I am after reading about 10 different cases I found online - each are different.

Bottom line - nail it down in the contract - and consult a solicitor/lawyer to iron clad things.

It’s not all cut and dry.

This looks pretty air tight.
Actual court document (this opens a PDF)

As though I don’t have more productive things to do with my time, I skimmed through the document. A couple of things struck me.

First, I don’t know the other side’s defense. Still, I’m having trouble imagining the degree of stupidity that it would take for the dispensary’s owner to think that using an unauthorized image of a famous person on a highly visible billboard to promote marijuana use was somehow a good move.

Second, the attorney’s depiction of Baron Cohen as an upstanding socially responsible activist with religious beliefs that caused him distress over being associated with cannabis use comes across as sanctimonious and disingenuous.

Baron Cohen’s characters in film and television immerse themselves in almost every offensive and embarrassing subject matter imaginable — most of it done at the expense of ridiculing his victims. In other words, he’s publicly humiliated dozens of people (deserving or not) yet uses as partial justification for his lawsuit the contention that he’s personally been distressed by being associated with marijuana.

It’s just a little difficult for me to have much sympathy for Baron Cohen’s claim of being maligned and misrepresented when his entire fame and fortune is the result of humiliating others.

1 Like

I don’t know who this guy is or what he’s done to earn his “recognition.”
I just hope my jury number doesn’t come up.

If anyone knows how a lawsuit works it would be Sacha Baron Cohen :wink:

Using his image with out his permission is wrong. End of story … but, come on! The description of him is cracking me up.

I’ve never seen any of his movies. I tried the first one and was so turned off I turned it off :wink:

©2021 Graphic Design Forum | Contact | Legal | Twitter | Facebook