No one likes having something stolen from them, particularly if it is worth major bucks. Although celebrities earn millions of dollars, some of them take issue with people or companies using their image for profit, unless they are getting a percentage of the earnings. With the advancement of technology and social media platforms, using a well-known person’s picture on a product or advertisement is much easier than it was years ago. Celebrities are beginning to get fed up, and a handful have spoken out about this problem to the media, threatening to take action–file a lawsuit.
Some of the products that the unknowing celebrities find their image on includes computer screens, video games, dolls, jewelry, televisions, and much more. Here’s a list of ten stars who sued for using their image without permission —
10) 50 Cent
Rapper 50 Cent has filed numerous lawsuits against companies for using his image. In 2005, the businessman went to battle against Gary Barbera Enterprises, a car dealership in Philadelphia, after it ran advertisements using his picture. Apparently, the car dealership thought that since 50 Cent participated in a car giveaway a few months prior, that meant they could use his likeness and words from a radio ad to sell more vehicles. That clearly wasn’t the case since Gary Barbera learned of the $1,000,000 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court shortly after airing the commercials. Snoop Dogg also filed a lawsuit that year against the same company for using his image in one of their ads.
In 2009, 50 Cent went up against WorldStarHipHop.com because three of the website’s mastheads were images of him. The pictures were featured over the course of four years: from 2005-2009. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the hip-hop star was granted a summary judgment in 2014 for the lawsuit on copyright and right of publicity claims by a federal judge who had the following to say: ‘Defendants provide no authority to support the fair use of a celebrity’s image or likeness. This is not surprising, as a celebrity’s image, standing alone, only evokes that celebrity’s persona.’
9) Sandra Bullock
In 2012, actress Sandra Bullock sued ToyWatch USA, an Italian designer luxury wrist watch company, for using her name to promote a white band watch similar to the one seen in the hit film, The Blind Side. Apparently, the company advertised on numerous website pages that the watch they were selling was the same exact one she wore in the movie. In Sandra’s lawsuit, one part says the actress “will not voluntarily appear in print or other media for a company or product unless she carefully selects and believes in the company and product, and unless the compensation she receives is commensurate with the value of the exploitation of her name, image, identity, and persona.” The company even put up a video of the watch on YouTube with the description, ” The white watch worn by Sandra Bullock in the movie The Blind Side.”
The Oscar-winning actress knows her worth, also mentioning in the lawsuit that her name has huge commercial value. Then, there’s a section that runs down a list of her professional achievements, such as being an 8-time People’s Choice Award nominee and winning numerous awards. The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that the lawsuit had been settled this year, but the details were not made public.
8) No Doubt
Grammy-winning rock band No Doubt filed a lawsuit over using their image in the Band Hero edition of the Guitar Hero video game series in 2009 according to the Los Angeles Times. In the suit, they claim the popular game “transformed No Doubt band members into a virtual karaoke circus act.” They are singing numerous songs in the virtual world, many of which are not their own. Jim Guerinot, the band’s manager, said in an interview that No Doubt agreed to play only three songs as a band, but Activision put them in 62 other songs while also breaking up the band. In response, the company said, “Activision believes it is within its legal rights with respect to the use and portrayal of the band members in the game and that this lawsuit is without merit.”
The Associated Press reported in 2012 that the court case will be heard by a jury after a Superior Court Judge denied a motion by Activisions’ legal team to dismiss several claims. Before the case could go in front of a jury in October of that year, Associated Press reported that the case had been settled. The terms of the agreement were not made public, nor did either party release a statement about it.
7) Lindsay Lohan
Actress Lindsay Lohan accused video game maker Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. and subsidiary Rockstar Games of basing Lacey Kunis–a character from Grand Theft Auto V–off her life without the star’s knowledge or permission. Lohan filed suit on her 28th birthday at the Manhattan Supreme Court. The game shows hotel Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, which is where she lived during the summer of 2012, also famously running up a $46,000 unpaid bill. The suit also claims that Lohan’s entire image–clothes, voice, style, facial expressions—were also used without her consent.
TMZ reported in 2013 that Lohan would be seeking a large amount of money. This could happen if she wins since Grand Theft Auto V generated over $1 billion in revenue in only 72 hours. However, Take-Two believes the Mean Girls star filed the suit for publicity and attention.
6) George Clooney
Actor George Clooney teamed up with actress Julia Roberts in 2012 to file a suit against Digital Projection, Inc. and Beyond Audio. They accused the companies of using their image and trademarked names to sell high-end movie projectors and entertainment systems. Apparently, unauthorized photos of the celebrities were used on the homepage of the website for both companies in addition to other print products such as newsletters and brochures. According to the suit, which was obtained by THR, ‘Defendants prominently used large photographs of Plaintiffs in Defendants advertising, marketing and promotions including print advertisements published in numerous magazines over the past several months.’ The amount in damages Clooney asked for wasn’t made public, but the main goal was to remove his image from all of their marketing materials as well as receive punitive damages. In other words–money.
Clooney also sued Italian company GC Exclusive for using his likeness and name without his permission and won in 2011. According to Radar Online, three men were convicted and had to spend time in prison. Vanja Goffi was sentenced to serve the most time by a judge, which was three years and 10 months.
5) Ray Liotta
After finding out that a skincare company–Nerium International–doctored his image in a ‘before-and-after’ advertising photo used for a media campaign, the actor Ray Liotta decided to file a lawsuit in a Los Angeles federal court: “I’ve never even heard of Nerium, let alone used their products.” He also went on to say, “They can deal with these doctored photos in court.” Liotta alleges in the suit that the company violates his privacy rights under California law. He also accuses the firm of false endorsement and unfair competition under federal law.
A spokeswoman for the company told ABCNews.com this year that they learned about the lawsuit through media and felt surprised by the news. The company also mentioned that they, ‘take claims against our company seriously and we are committed to investigating this matter promptly.’ Although there’s no guarantee of the case going to court, it doesn’t sound like the two parties will reach a settlement agreement anytime soon which would save time and money in the long run.
4) Halle Berry
Actress and sex symbol Halle Berry filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court, Central District of California against watch makers, Toywatch S.p.A and Triboo Digitale in 2013 for $2,000,000 according to Radar Online. The issue was over the companies using her face and image in ads without her permission. In the lawsuit, Halle claims that her right of publicity and right of privacy was breached and also infringes the Halle Berry trademark.
However, the Italian companies aren’t giving up without a fight. They responded back the next month after Halle filed the suit, saying the privacy laws ‘Do not apply to the acts of these defendants that occurred outside of the United States.’ If that turns out to be the case, they are protected under the doctrine of nominative fair use law. Halle won’t be throwing out this lawsuit seeing as she doesn’t mind going to court; in 2014 she successfully lobbied to pass an anti-paparazzi bill.
3) Jennifer Love Hewitt
Jennifer Love Hewitt filed a lawsuit at the Superior Court of Los Angeles this year, claiming The Marz Group violated her publicity rights by using her image for Slim Spray–a line of oral weight loss supplements, sleep aids, and energy boosters. Apparently, the company featured her photo on their website, thus implying she endorsed the product.
According to a report on TMZ, The Marz Group maintains that the actress willingly posed for pictures in one of their Hollywood gifting suites in 2012: ‘We received a dozen images of Ms. Hewitt reading the ingredients and talking to our employees about the benefits of our products, all of which she posed for.’ The Ghost Whisperer star is seeking a damage settlement of no less than $25,000.
2) Arnold Schwarzenegger
Former California Governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger sued a Nevada company–Arnold Nutrition Group–for $10 million for allegedly using his image and name to promote its products without permission. In the suit, Arnold claims that the defendants ‘have brazenly stolen and exploited Schwarzenegger’s name, image, likeness and reputation to promote Arnold Nutrition and Arnold Nutrition products without ever having contacted him’. Entertainment site, TMZ, obtained the lawsuit and reported that the former Mr. Universe wants to crush the company that stole his image to sell “cheap nutrition products.”
In 2004, Schwarzenegger’s film production company filed a lawsuit against a toy maker, Ohio Discount Merchandise Inc., claiming that the company’s $20 million grossing bobble head doll ‘exploits his image for commercial purposes.’ The doll designed to look like him shows the actor dressed in a suit and carrying an assault rifle. Schwarzenegger eventually settled the suit that same year, allowing them to produce the doll without the gun. The company also agreed to donate a portion of its sales to the actor’s nonprofit organization–Arnold All-Stars afterschool program.
1) Katherine Heigl
Actress Katherine Heigl was horrified to see the following Tweet posted after going to the drug store chain Duane Reade in New York: “Love a quick #DuaneReade run? Even @KatieHeigl can’t resist shopping #NYC’s favorite drugstore.” She was so upset that she decided to file a lawsuit against the well-known chain.
TMZ was able to obtain the papers in which she asks for $6 million. The lawsuit also mentions: ‘A recent search for Katherine Heigl on the Google search engine returned over 3.2 million results.’ On a positive note, the beauty says she’ll donate her monetary judgment to the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation. In August of this year, the Knocked Up star came to an agreement with Duane Reade in which they will give an undisclosed contribution to the aforementioned foundation.
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