For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Misappropriation of likeness: Rapper plans to sue Spring Breakers producers for "not so likeable" character

Next beach break coming
up soon for this Kat ...
Celebrities and their lawyers must be on the lookout for protecting their IP rights, including the rights to one’s name, picture and likeness. Personality or fame is the product/service being sold to attract consumers' attention, so third parties will tend to misappropriate the celebrity's identity to gain a commercial advantage- as Topshop tried to do with Rihanna’s picture reported here.

This Kat always wondered what all the fuss is about “Spring break” in the US --being a fan of a good fun holiday break but not necessarily in Spring -- and watched ‘Spring Breakers’ the movie one lazy Sunday night.  Although, in her humble opinion, this viewing will not remain the most memorable cinematographic work she has ever seen, this Kat can say the Director’s attempt at a critique of the over-scandalous lifestyle of the Spring Break madness was well portrayed in some sort of dreamy-documentary way (feel free accept this review or turn to Rotten tomatoes).

The movie hit theatres in 2012 and was released on DVD on last July 17 when the industry -and potential plaintiffs, adds Merpel -have an idea of the gross profit generated- $32 million worldwide. This coincided with rapper Riff  Raff (born Jody Christian) alleging that one of the main characters, Alien -- played by James Franco -- misappropriated his likeness.  As of 20 July 2013, he was assembling a "lawyer team" in order to sue the movie producers.

The Houston based rapper-- who owes  partly his fame to an MTV reality show --claims there is a strong resemblance between him and Alien’s character due to “long braids and blinged-out grillz”. The protagonist can also be described as a “gangster mystic” who plays with guns, drugs and the film’s female leads.

James Franco's 'Alien 
v Riff Raff
In order to enforce his right of publicity successfully in the US (this is a right which does not exist in the UK, as explained in the case of Rihanna)- a plaintiff must demonstrate the following criteria established in Eastwood v Superior Court (California Court of Appeal, 1983):

    (1)   Defendant’s use of Plaintiff’s identity
    (2)   Appropriation of Plaintiff’s name or likeness to Defendant’s advantage
    (3)   Lack of consent of the Plaintiff and  
    (4)   Resulting injury to the Plaintiff

So Riff Raff would have to plead in Court that his likeness as a notorious drug-dealing gangster was appropriated without his consent – instead of the likeness being reportedly that of a competing rapper, Dangeruss, who got more credit as the inspiration for Alien’s character. The California Court in White v Samsung,  (9th Cir. 1992), applying this precedent, reiterated  that 
“if the celebrity's identity is commercially exploited, there has been an invasion of his right whether or not his "name or likeness" is used. Considerable energy and ingenuity are expended by those who have achieved celebrity value to exploit it for profit. The law protects the celebrity's sole right to exploit this value whether the celebrity has achieved her fame out of rare ability, dumb luck, or a combination thereof.”
The rapper revealed he plans to sue for 8 to 10 million dollars, which  might seem extreme for some but falls within the average damages compensation for infringing a celebrity’s publicity right in the USA.

Celebrities and cats here and here.
Top four Spring break destinations for cats here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suppose a sort of squeeze argument could be run here where a comparison between Alien and Dangeruss and between Riff Raff and Alien would need to be done. One cannot monopolise gangster characteristics in general, only those that are specific to you, presumably.

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