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Katherine Heigl Wants Six Mil-Do After Drugstore Tweets Picture Of Her Shopping There

from the publicity-bytes dept

When I become king of America, I can assure you that anything resembling publicity rights will be stricken from the legal record. We've seen entirely too much craziness recently over these laws that appear to create something of a VIP class citizenry. But while even the typical ownership culture insanity usually has an inkling of logic to it, Katherine Heigl suing a drugstore for six million dollars simply for tweeting a photo of the actress shopping there is a whole new level of protectionism.

It's a form of publicity rights gone insane yet again, after Duane Reade tweeted and Facebook-ed a paparazzi photo of Heigl walking out of a Duane Reade, carrying some bags of whatever she had just purchased.

Heigl, the star of the films "The Ugly Truth" and "Life as We Know It" and a best supporting actress Emmy winner for "Grey's Anatomy," filed the lawsuit on Wednesday in New York federal court. The complaint said she was photographed in March near a Duane Reade store in New York while filming a new television series. Duane Reade posted the photo on its Twitter and Facebook account with captions advertising the store without her approval, the complaint said.

The 15-page lawsuit cited a tweet that Heigl claimed Duane Reade posted last month. "Love a quick #DuaneReade run? Even @KatieHeigl can't resist shopping #NYC's favorite drugstore," it said.
Now, we should all know by now that New York's publicity rights laws resemble something a dictator might have put together, strictly governing what the little people can do with images of the important folks. That said, Duane Reade may have a pretty strong defense in that the photo was an accurate representation of a thing that happened. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, and all this picture is saying is "Heigl shopped at our drugstore and, hey, here's some photo evidence to prove it."

In fact, Duane Reade seems confident enough in its position that, as of writing this, the tweet is still up.

This is unlike some other publicity cases we've seen, such as when local grocery stores in Chicago congratulated Michael Jordan with an ad campaign, or the misinterpreted representation of celebrities in video games. This is a picture of something that happened represented over social media. At some point, it has to raise certain First Amendment issues about the broadness of various state publicity rights laws, when such laws can be used to prevent someone from accurately describing factual information. Yes, the point of publicity rights laws is to prevent companies from creating a false endorsement of a product, but is accurately describing the fact that someone shops at a store really a false endorsement?

On top of the publicity rights claim, Heigl claims that this is a form of "false advertising," but one could reasonably argue that (a) it's not false and (b) it's not advertising. The latter claim may be a little trickier, but where is the line between an advertisement, and some social media jockey at Duane Reade just tweeting out a photo. That line may become... very important to the outcome of this particular lawsuit.

But Heigl wants you to know she's not some kind of greedy monster:

The complaint said Heigl intends to donate all proceeds from the lawsuit to The Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, which was established in 2008 after her brother was killed in a car accident.
You're not fooling anyone. This is an ego-driven abuse of the legal system. Or, it would be, if publicity rights weren't opening the door to a whole new level of ownership culture insanity, where merely tweeting a picture of a thing that happened suddenly became actionable.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Violynne (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 12:00pm

    Content is advertising. Advertising is content.

    Copyright hates content when someone isn't being paid.

    So, king of America, here's a piece of advice: when you take the throne, do us all a favor and abolish copyright and patent laws completely.

    Because even one sentence is bound to be twisted into stupidity such as this twitter ad, er, content.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 12:03pm

    the tweet appears to be down

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Lowestofthekeys (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 12:04pm

    I'm pretty sure the Nyquil commercials aren't paying her bills.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 12:07pm

    Too easy.

    Public figure, public place. She has no right to anything.

    NEXT.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 12:28pm

    Actually, just checked the link to the tweet and it no longer exists - for me anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 12:29pm

    Re: Too easy.

    Well, she has a right to her ruinous day in court...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 12:40pm

    I thought it was a better performance than anything she has done so far. Maybe she's just making up for "The Killers" with this salary negotiation.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    s7, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 12:41pm

    Best quote.

    "While the harm to Ms. Heigl is substantial...."

    Really?

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 12:43pm

    Re:

    Apparently it's more harm than her movies are to her rep. Who'd have thought?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    lucidrenegade (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 12:44pm

    Katherine Heigl - another example of how big hooters only get you so far in Hollywood.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 1:03pm

    Would she be complaining if she was say... snapped leaving the Waldorf Astoria?

     

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  12.  
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    nsqe (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 1:12pm

    Publicity rights were only a problem when only one class of citizens had access to them. Now that all of us have access to them thanks, Fraley v. Facebook! they're a lot more interesting in that they're one of the best avenues an individual currently has for recovery against a service provider or advertiser who misuses their online data for commercial purposes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Shmerl, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 1:25pm

    Re:

    69 pages??? Did they at least explain what the damage is? TL;DR version could be helpful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 1:38pm

    On top of the publicity rights claim, Heigl claims that this is a form of "false advertising," but one could reasonably argue that (a) it's not false and (b) it's not advertising. The latter claim may be a little trickier, but where is the line between an advertisement, and some social media jockey at Duane Reade just tweeting out a photo. That line may become... very important to the outcome of this particular lawsuit.


    I don't see how that works. This is unquestionably advertising, but the fact that it's not false, in and of itself, invalidates the "false advertising" complaint, so how does "the line between advertising and not advertising" have any relevance?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Zonker, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 2:01pm

    Re:

    Why yes, the filing of this lawsuit has done substantial harm to Ms. Heigl: a shop owner and his customers who were once proud that she shopped at their store is now ashamed of that fact and presumably would never want her to shop there again.

    Oh, she thought the harm was the good publicity she got out of the photo opportunity? She sure seems to live up to the blond stereotype, doesn't she? I didn't have any idea who she was before this, but now I want to avoid any film she may appear in because I don't like bad actors.

     

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  16.  
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    HegemonicDistortion (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 2:03pm

    So why wouldn't any "star" buy something at some store and then just stand there in front of it waiting to be photographed and tweeted by a company rep?

    Easier than working, eh, Katherine. Especially for you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 2:06pm

    Re:

    I can see how the wording of "can't resist shopping" could imply a celebrity endorsement or support of a paricular chain of shops over another and therefore could lead to false advertising. If it was just "shops here" or something akin, there'd be not question that that's just fact.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 2:43pm

    While i can't see anything particularly wrong with posting a tweet like that... i can certainly understand it being considered rather rude. Especially in the implication here. Personally i'd also be worried about having her tweet back saying like "Looks like i won't be shopping here anymore. Thanks for the heads up on the ad post /sarcasm"

    It wouldn't surprise me if the lawsuit was more the result of bad legal advice rather than a belief of serious harm.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 2:56pm

    Re:

    That would have been the best, and probably incredibly effective response.

    Anyone who's going to shop at a store just because she shopped there is probably equally likely to avoid it if she publicly declares that they're assholes and she'll be avoiding them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    scotts13 (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 3:21pm

    Katherine Heigl ?

    I'd never heard of her before, so the entirety of her reputation (to me) consists of "the dizzy blonde who tried to extort $6,000,000 out of a drugstore." Congratulations, whatever PR firm she employs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 3:23pm

    What the heck's a mil-do? Is it like that stuff that grows on your bathroom tile?

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 3:26pm

    obvious bitch is obvious.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    LAB (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 4:27pm

    Hmmm.....Walmart takes a photo of you leaving their store, tweets it, with your real first and last name attached, saying "______ _______just can't stay away from walmart." Am I to believe that,
    1)It's not an advertisement?
    2) If they did so you shouldn't be compensated?
    I go lots of places, but I don't think I want to be associated with them just cause I went there. Gotta get permission and pay me for it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 5:19pm

    Re:

    No it's a dildo you can use to grind corn.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    JMT (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 6:00pm

    Re:

    Actually she had the looks and just enough talent to do alright in Hollywood, but it turns out being a complete bitch to everyone is a bit of a career handbrake.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Apr 10th, 2014 @ 6:03pm

    Re:

    yes, you've nailed it: *anyone* (even 'nobodies' like us) *may* (OR may not) be annoyed to embarrassed to be seen in a public moment with no expectation of being observed or photographed for such 'broadcasting'...
    i can imagine if i had the flu and had to run to the drugstore for decongestants, whatever, i would not exactly feel like being photographed for public dissemination...

    of course, besides whatever paparazzi, etc she may have regularly hounding her, surely she must have an expectation -if not desire- that if she is out in public, she will be recognized, photographed, asked for autographs and pose with fans, etc...

    *and* i think the tactic described would be a million times classier, funnier, and effective...

    as an asterisk, i'm not too impressed that she 'plans' to donate all proceeds to X charity, for a number of reasons:
    1. superficially 'good', but i'm betting *someone* gets a big fat tax writeoff if they do donate it...
    2. MANY 'big' charities are feelgood orgs without benefits for the poor schlubs they beg for, only a small percentage of donations reaching them after all the 'expenses', etc...
    3. NOT SAYING ONE WAY OR THE OTHER, but maybe 'her' charity is staffed by her mother and cousin and best friend, who 'earn' multi-hundred thousand dollar salaries 'working' a couple hours a week... i'm betting it would not be the first time...

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 8:22pm

    Re:

    What a surprise. You'll do anything to make sure copyright is enforced, regardless of whether it's relevant.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Tim A, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 9:31pm

    I feel so used

    Turns out she's not the sweet, funny and beautiful woman she made me think she was.

    Get your stuff and get out!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    kamil, Apr 10th, 2014 @ 10:47pm

    Funny...

    as a European I've been only couple of times in US and I know what douane reade is. And I don't know who KH is. 6min$? maybe she wants to go bionic...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), Apr 11th, 2014 @ 1:37am

    Re: Re:

    Actually that's something they can probably now do.. Ban here from ever purchasing and attending any of their stores ever again on pain of trespassing if she does.

    See she might egotistically think she has the right to say when and how her photo in public is shown or not when stating actualities (she doesn't) whereas the store owners absolutely have a right to deny her entry EVER AGAIN into their PRIVATE premises.

    Especially wearing a hideous poop coloured outfit..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), Apr 11th, 2014 @ 1:44am

    Re:

    Permission for what?

    They need your permission to allow people to know you actually enter and leave places?

    here's a hint... if you don't want people to know you go to places that are in public view.. DON'T FUCKING GO THERE!

    Just because you think you are somehow more special than anyone else and have the right to be paid for your egotistic attitude doesn't mean you are correct or that anyone won't make fun of you and cut you down to size.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    minerva, Apr 11th, 2014 @ 6:53am

    Re:

    well ... someday if you ever DO become famous (good luck with that) ...you can behave like an asshole too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    BAL, Apr 11th, 2014 @ 10:22am

    Re:

    1) Depends on the definition. If your friend did the exact same thing, is that an advertisement too? And does where it's posted have a bearing on that (i.e. Twitter and/or Facebook versus Walmart's official website, a billboard, poster, etc)? How about who photographed you? Were they a pro hired by Walmart or just some nobody on the street taking a candid snapshot using their iPhone? Like all things in life, context matter greatly, even more so when one makes a court case out of it that may trample of someones natural rights (which apply to everyone) versus made up artificial rights (which serve only the elite).

    2) See number one above. Do you feel you should be compensated by everyone whom takes a photo you happen to be in, even though all were taken in a public place and include a nobody like you? She is well known public figure in a public place doing the factual thing as stated on Twitter/Facebook and hasn't been misrepresented in any way. Do you truly believe she deserves six million for that? If so, you must as insane as she is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    John85851 (profile), Apr 11th, 2014 @ 6:08pm

    Again, what about the lawyer

    As usual with these lawsuits, let's talk about the lawyer.
    No offense meant to anyone here, but if we can come up with reasons why this lawsuit is bad, shouldn't a lawyer know these things also? Who's the lawyer who agreed to take this case?

    Or is it the usual case of "You take the case because I'm a famous star and you'll get to keep 50% or you're fired and I'll find someone who will take the case"?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Apr 12th, 2014 @ 1:05am

    Two words: 'Billable hours'.

    The lawyer's getting paid whether they win or lose in court.

    They might get an extra percentage if they win, but that's just icing on the cake, and if worse comes to worse, the lawyer will likely come out without a scratch, while their client is the one that'll suffer the PR backlash, so even if they do think it's a crazy lawsuit, they don't exactly have much reason to object too strongly, especially given that, like you said, if they object too much they'll probably just be fired and replaced with a more 'agreeable' lawyer.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2014 @ 10:59am

    Using someone as advertising to make money without their knowledge or permission, i think thats not quite kosher.
    Whether she should win such a lawsuit or not i have not decided

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 6:07am

    Re:

    Let's be fair to LAB; there's a big difference between

    a)"______ _______just bought something from my store" and b) "______ _______just can't stay away from my store."


    a)Is not an advertisement and b)IS an advertisement suggesting that not only has ______ _______ entered the aforementioned establishment, she regularly shops there to the point where staff think it's an obsession.

    If I'm right,

    2) If they did so you shouldn't be compensated?

    applies. The idea that being famous makes you public property to be used as required creeps me out. You ought to be allowed to shop wherever you like without being harassed or being used in adverts (let's say any communication in any medium is for the purpose of promoting any entity is an advert) without your express permission.

    However, the tweet went, "Even @KatieHeigl can't resist shopping #NYC's favorite drugstore."

    This may not have as big an impact on future advertising work as feared because it doesn't necessarily imply repetition. Had it said, "...can't keep away from..." I'd be more inclined to side with him. That said, Duane Reade might have been better off just tweeting her first and last name with the remark, "@KatieHeigl at #NYC's favorite drugstore." Then again, you know how ridiculous people can get about publicity rights.

    I dunno, I find myself sympathizing with LAB and Heigl RE: being able to shop in peace. It must be horrible to have every move you make photographed and sold to the highest bidder.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Apr 14th, 2014 @ 6:09am

    Re: Re:

    Or posted online for the world to see.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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