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.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."
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.
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.