Us regular folk tend to take the concept of “reputation” for granted, but for celebrities who rely on their image for bankability, “reputation” is worth the trouble of going to court. However, sometimes it feels that stars take it a little too far. Here are some cases that may cause you to scratch your head in disbelief.
When a name is worth more than 50 cents
While Taco Bell was only being cheeky when they suggested in an ad campaign that 50 Cent change his name to 99 Cent to promote their affordable offerings in 2008, the rapper-turned-business mogul was having none of it. He sued the Mexican-themed food chain, claiming that they had no permission to use his name for any promotional materials.
Fiddy was apparently sore about it because he sought $4 million in damages, and Taco Bell countersued for the same amount. Both parties ended up settling out of court in 2009, but talk about an argument over pennies getting way out of proportion!
The john in “Johnny Carson”
Though Johnny Carson was the premier comedian of his time, he didn’t find it funny when a porta-potty company began selling the Here’s Johnny toilet in 1976, calling it “The world’s foremost commodian.” Despite the allusion to Carson being clear, the Tonight Show host lost his case against the company because, according to the court, he wasn’t defamed. Not surprisingly, Carson’s legal team disagreed with that ruling and had it reversed upon appeal. It just goes to show that even if restrooms are called johns, dignities of Johnnys can’t be flushed down the toilet so easily.
E*Trade’s 2010 Superbowl ad could’ve been referring to any Lindsay, but Lindsay Lohan had to make it about her. The ad has a baby boy and a baby girl on a date. The boy apologizes for being unavailable the night before because he was on the electronic trading platform, and the girl snaps back, “And that milkaholic Lindsay wasn’t over?”
Lohan, who is infamous for her legal troubles that stemmed from alcoholism and drug abuse, took issue with the ad, believing it made fun of her personal struggles for the sake of publicity. So she sued E*Trade for — get this — $100 million. The two parties settled the suit out of court in 2010 — with E*Trade choosing to end the drama as quickly as possible.
Image is everything
If a celebrity sues a business for tweeting an image where said celebrity is seen as an actual customer of that business, is that overkill? Is the celebrity merely being opportunistic, hoping to make money from the lawsuit? Or is that person rightfully protecting their privacy and their personal brand?
These are the questions that Katherine Heigl raised in 2014 when she sued popular New York drugstore chain Duane Reade for over $6 million for using a paparazzi-shot photo of herself in a social media campaign.
In a tweet featuring a photo of Heigl carrying Duane Reade shopping bags, the pharmacy stated, “Love a quick #DuaneReade run? Even @KatieHeigl can’t resist shopping at #NYC’s favorite drugstore.”
On one hand, the photo in and of itself appears to be a celebrity endorsement for Duane Reade regardless of which party releases it to the public. That’s because the image is, after all, evidence that the actress indeed shopped there.
On the other hand, it may have been more proper for Duane Reade to have at least asked for her permission first before using that image for their campaign. She’s already a confirmed shopper, so why not sign her up as an authentic endorser?
According to the Washington Post, Heigl had a case because “for actors, image is everything — in the Hollywood universe, it can be more important than actual acting. As a result, it’s crucial to control a personal brand, even if means a star may have to go to extraordinary means to protect it.” Regardless, the matter was settled privately, in a deal that Heigl’s lawyer claimed to be “mutually beneficial.”
Be they good or ill, reputations can precede celebrities and non-celebrities alike. Having it tarnished can lead to one getting fired, having difficulty in gaining employment, and suffering stigma in one’s social circles. If you’ve been unjustly defamed, turn to Buckingham, LaGrandeur & Williams. Contact us to learn how we will do everything we can for you to regain your good name.