[Clipart] celebrity image

Greg Bulmash oneminuteinspirations at gmail.com
Mon Dec 31 17:06:25 PST 2007

Mohamed Ibrahim wrote:
> Reporters take pictures of actors & actresses and post it all over the 
> newspapers & web without their consent, actually sometimes the pictures 
> are in an undesirable situations for them - yet they get posted.

As the person who built and managed the celebrity photo library for 
IMDb.com for 5+ years, I'll address that.

Such photos are considered editorial use.  When used for news or 
commentary, the celebrity's image (however good or bad) can be used.

I often had to deal with agents or managers saying "who authorized you 
to post that photo?"

I'd reply that the photo was shot at a public event with paparazzi 
present where their client had no reasonable expectation of privacy.  As 
the photo was being used editorially, the First Amendment authorized us 
to post it.

What we're talking about in the case of images on OCAL is the "right of 


It's not protected under copyright.  You're violating someone's personal 
trademark.  It's also known under the legal concept of "passing off".


California's Celebrities Rights Act was enacted to make these rights 
transferrable, like a copyright, for 70 years after the celebrity's death.


This is what has allowed the estates of Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, 
and Boris Karloff to sue people making t-shirts, collector plates, etc. 
that bore their likenesses.

So, if I was writing an article on my blog about Sandra Bullock and used 
the OCAL image for illustrative purposes, it would be fine.  If, like 
Johnny Automatic pointed out, we put it up with the subhead of "Sandra 
Bullock Loves OCAL", it would be an unauthorized endorsement and she 
could sue.

> I think it is enough to show a disclaimer may be like what wikipedia 
> does in a clear box:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:CBSEveningNewsKatie.jpg

That's different as it is a copyrighted work that Wikipedia is claiming 
it believes falls under fair use and does not actually address Katie 
Couric's rights as an individual to exert some control over the use of 
her image.  Instead, it addresses CBS's rights under copyright.

That's much more restrictive than an image that's public domain, but has 
restrictions based on the rights of the individual depicted.

> when CBS altered an image in a way they thought people would like it 
> more by making Katie look thinner. She didn't like it and was in the 
> news headlines for a couple of days even though she worked for CBS for a 
> period of time.

Again, a different matter.  That was a publicity photo, issued by her 

A drawing or "work of art" depicting someone can veer toward the 
idealized or grotesque with much more freedom because it's 
known/expected to be the artists interpretation.  A photograph that is 
issued without a warning that it's been altered is assumed to represent 
a realistic depiction.

Secondly, since the photo was "official" from Katie's employer, it could 
lead people to believe that Katie had approved or even instigated the 
alterations and thus cause people to think she was vain, damaging her 
reputation and costing her goodwill, much of that coming from the fact 
that it's "official".

Neither issue of being a photo nor the issue of being an "officiall" 
representation of someone are issues that I believe OCAL has to contend 

> So my opinion is to allow addition of celebrity images. If adding the 
> check box is a trouble then may be vectorizing & cliparting of 
> celebrity/people images should be outlined in the policy.

I think if it's a vectorized photo, there are issues that need to be 
considered, such as whether the copyright owned by the photographer is 
being violated.

But if it's a drawing and the copyright owner is the submitter, then the 
main thing to do is warn the end user of the publicity rights issue.

- Greg

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