There are no image rights as such under English law but Rihanna has followed Eddie Irvine in being successful in pursuing use of her image without permission.
Topshop began selling t-shirts with an image of the famous pop star Rihanna in 2012. The photograph used on the front of the t-shirt was taken by an independent photographer during a video shoot for the song “We Found Love”. The photograph in question detailed Rihanna wearing the same clothing as that worn for the front cover of her album “Talk That Talk”.
Topshop obtained a licence from the photographer to use the image in question however, did not obtain a licence from Rihanna, who brought a claim under the “Umbrella” of passing off.
The Court Appeal found in Rihanna’s favour despite it being clear that there is no “image” or “character” right in English Law that enables a celebrity to control the use of his or her name or image. The court stated that just because the name or image of a celebrity appears on a commercial item, it does not mean that the public assume that the individual(s) in question have endorsed the item. However the application of Rihanna’s image on the product gave the impression to the consumer that Rihanna endorsed it and the impression was so significant that it had an affect on the consumers’ buying decision.
Celebrities who already have strong merchandising lines can be successful claiming passing off if the consumer wrongly concludes that there is an endorsement association between the celebrity and a company.
Organisations concerned with celebrity promotional campaigning should ensure that they have all necessary permissions and consents in place before launching any campaign.
For more information, help or advice in the use of promotional materials please contact Alex Craig on 0191 211 7911.