Annie Hull: Company Challenges Value of Woody Allen’s Endorsement in Tort Case

445px-woody_allen_2006American Apparel over the use of his image in ads for the company. The company ran a picture of Allen from the movie Annie Hall where he is dressed as a Hasidic Jew. They are now claiming that he is entitled to little of the $10 million that he sought in the lawsuit because he already destroyed the value of his reputation. Instead, it is suggesting that he is trying to get an Annie “Hull” by overstating the value of the image from the movie. It appears that the company does not agree with Allen that “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

The common law has long protected the right to publicity or the Appropriation of Name or Likeness. It is amazing that the company would use the picture of the 73-year-old actor in the first place. It appears to have been an act that they regretted since they claim to have removed the ads within a week. The company apologized for the use of the image. Does this company have any lawyers or does it just proceed in the blind until it receives intent-to-sue letters?

The clothing company now plans to argue that Allen’s relationship with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn an issue at trial. The company’s lawyer, Stuart Slotnick said “Woody Allen expects $10 million for use of his image on billboards that were up and down in less than one week. I think Woody Allen overestimates the value of his image.”

The issue is relevant is determining the value of the endorsement — which of course the company never bothered to get from Allen. Allen is fighting a demand to turn over documents in discovery that would show his endorsement requests after his scandal with Soon-Yi.

The courts have been highly supported of celebrities in seeking compensation for the use of such images, including the case of Vanna White who successfully sued Samsung for using a robotic in a blond wig turning cards. In a decision that I find perfectly incomprehensible, the Ninth Circuit ruled that a blond person turning cards was White’s sole schick and that the company stole her likeness. I agree with Judge Kozinski’s dissent in thatWhite v. Samsung, which can be accessed here.

This case is clearly stronger and the fight will be over the value of the endorsement in ads that only ran for a week.

On one level, the discovery would appear relevant given the need to appraise the value of the endorsement. On another level, it comes close to the “libel-proof” plaintiffs theory in defamation where the party argues that they could not have harmed the reputation of the defendant because the defendant had no good reputation. This is confined for the most notorious defendants. Here, the argument is that Allen destroyed the value of his endorsement through the scandal and thus would be entitled to modest compensation.

I suppose he could use a defense from Annie Hall when he said “I would never want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.” In the same way, he would never buy clothes form a company who would have him as a model.

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10 thoughts on “Annie Hull: Company Challenges Value of Woody Allen’s Endorsement in Tort Case”

  1. You know I have never really cared for Mr. Allen. This is furthered by the fact that he took his adopted daughter as his Mistress.

    One, I will not watch anything he has written, acted in or produced; Two) I think he is kinda creepy; 3) I would never buy anything knowingly that Mr. Allen has endorsed; and 4) the Advertisers has lost their money when doing this.

    Maybe the court can award money to Mr. Allen and make sure that he gives to a charity for the abused children and orphans fund.

    What do you say Mr. Creepy Allen.

  2. Bobo, bubby, you’re all out of sorts. If you hate the place so much, why would you frequent it so often? You’re like the ladies at the diner.

    “I hate this place and I can’t get enough of it.”

    What’s your point, sweetie? Life got you down? Did you just learn what tea-bagging really means (the hard way?)

  3. I agree with most of the comments above. How in the world did they not think this would become a legal issue? And their defense is absurd. His good name is tarnished and so naturally we decided to feature him in an ad?

    Yes, his choice of spouse was, to be mild, unfortunate. But he also just directed Penelope Cruz into an Oscar-winning performance. I doubt anybody is questioning if Woody’s reputation is hurting the business that ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ is doing.

    I think I made a variation on the joke from ‘Annie Hall’ on another thread, but here it is again:

    Two ladies are eating lunch in a diner, and one of them says, “The chicken here is terrible.”

    And the other replies, “Yes, and such small portions.”

    I suppose the apparel company’s reasoning here is, “Woody Allen’s reputation is terrible, and not worth that much money to advertise our product …”

  4. Top Homeland Security Democrat objects to DHS report on “right-wing extremism”

    A key Democrat on the House Committee on Homeland Security has demanded an explanation of DHS Napolitano.

    Bennie Thompson (D-MS) pronounced himself “dumbfounded” at the report, and will ask Napolitano how this report ever got out of her office. Audrey Hudson reports:
    The top House Democrat overseeing the Department of Homeland Security is demanding that officials there explain how and why they wrote and released a controversial report identifying veterans as potential terrorist threats.
    Rep. Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano that he was “dumbfounded” such a report would be issued.
    “This report appears to raise significant issues involving the privacy and civil liberties of many Americans — including war veterans,” Mr. Thompson said in the letter sent Tuesday.
    “As I am certain you agree, freedom of association and freedom of speech are guaranteed to all Americans — whether a person’s beliefs, whatever their political orientation, are ‘extremist’ or not,” Mr. Thompson said.
    Thompson didn’t stop there. He wants an explanation of what “activities” Napolitano has planned with law enforcement officials to monitor legitimate public political activity, as promised at the end of the DHS report. He called himself “particularly struck” by this statement. And well he might; it promises to have government treat political discourse as a subversive activity.
    Thompson, it should be noted, is hardly a Blue Dog Democrat. He sued George Bush for supposed Constitutional violations in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (the suit was dismissed). He cast a vote to block the Electoral College representation of Ohio in 2004, attempting to use allegations of voting problems to delegitimize Bush’s victory. He is known as a solid liberal.
    Even a solid liberal like Thompson can see an abuse of power by DHS in attacking political discourse that opposes the current administration. Give Thompson his due; we may disagree on policy, but he understands what DHS did here and wants to put a stop to it.

  5. 1L:

    “I wonder if Allen would do well to differentiate between his personal image and that of Annie Hall or his character in it. The images were clearly identifiable as from the film, not of Allen in his admittedly creepy personal life.”


    I suspect the Court would rule that the law protects people and not fictional characters. Here Allen’s likeness was clearly appropriated without his permission for a commercial purpose and not under some notion of Fair Use. The defense that his reputation is so bad that you can’t harm it is more theoretical than practical since the jury would have to decide the value, if any, of Allen’s “good name.” I think the real damages involve disgorging the profits associated with increased sales occurring after the ads ran, and for a reasonable time thereafter as the residual effects of the campaign subside. Sounds like a great case to me, and, were I the defendant, I’d be getting my check ready.

  6. Not being terribly familiar with this doctrine (save for an exceptional 1st year torts lecture of course), I wonder if Allen would do well to differentiate between his personal image and that of Annie Hall or his character in it. The images were clearly identifiable as from the film, not of Allen in his admittedly creepy personal life.

    Problem being that this might splitting any damages with the studio that owns the right to the movie…….

  7. Of course, one might ask why the defendant elected to utilize in its advertisements the likeness of a person it concluded has no commercial endorsement value. Prof. Turley’s first instinct is probably correct; the company acted with full knowledge that its unauthorized use was actionable, but believed an apology and a quick and dirty settlement would take care of the matter. The most interesting discovery would include internal company records and emails explaining how its promotional campaign was designed and implemented.

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