In recent news Pop Star Ariana Grande is suing the fashion retailer Forever 21 for $10 million dollars over look-alike ads in social media campaigns.
The model, clothes, and accessories in question resemble Grande’s famous ensemble from her recent music video “7-rings.” The bejeweled pink pom-poms and purple printed camouflage joggers worn by the Forever 21 model bared a noticeably similar look to the pop icon. The brand also used lyrics from the “7-rings” song (“Gee thanks, just bought it”) as the caption accompanying one of its Instagram posts.
In November of 2018, the retailer reached out to Grande seeking an endorsement deal that would include their Instagram account. The singer declined due to an offer that wasn’t high enough. The fast-fashion brand should have given up right there and spared themselves from additional financial hardships that would soon follow.
Forever21 is reportedly preparing a bankruptcy filing.
PN Lawyers Attorney Lydia Vradi, shares her legal analysis on this riveting case that has been all the buzz this past week.
The lawsuit was filed on Monday, September 2nd in the Federal District Court in Los Angeles. The suit claims Forever 21 is trying to use Grande’s image to advocate their brand without her consent. On Tuesday, September 3rd, Forever 21 stated the allegations were disputed, but no comment could be made on the pending litigation. Forever 21 is said to be hopeful about finding a reasonable resolution and remain on civil terms with the singer.
This case implicates the right of publicity, trademarks, copyrights, and false advertisement/endorsement claims. New York recognizes a statutory right of publicity as part of the right of privacy pursuant to N.Y. Civ. Rights Law §§50 and 51, which protects a living person’s name, portrait, picture, and voice from third-party use for advertising purposes or for the purposes of trade without written consent. In California, by contrast, where the suit was filed, rights of publicity are protected not only under statute, but also under common law. The protection California’s common law right of publicity offers extends beyond a person’s name, portrait, picture and voice; it, further, covers anything evoking a person’s image or identity.
This broad protection afforded by California law to publicity encompasses any misappropriation of a person’s identity, whether a person’s image was used or not. For this reason, many individuals, and even more celebrities opt to litigate in California courts when their publicity rights are infringed.
Based on the above, it seems that Grande’s claims could be successful. At the same time, it would be compelling to see where the line is drawn between protection of publicity rights and freedom of expression under the First Amendment, where neither a person’s name, nor their image, voice, or portrait has been used.