Fur Flies Over Advert: PETA Runs AD With Picture of First Lady Without Permission

PETA’s new ad featuring Carrie Underwood, Tyra Banks, Oprah Winfrey and the First Lady bills them as “among the most stylish and influential women in America” who “all refuse to wear real fur.” The First Lady also refuses to make such endorsements. The ad raises questions over the use of celebrity images without consent and possible appropriation of name or likeness in torts.

What is striking about this advert is that it does look like a collection of powerful women standing together in support of the campaign.

PETA admits that it did not ask for consent to run the ad from the First Lady and was aware that she declines to make most endorsements. This is part of the organizations “Make D.C. Fur-Free” campaign.

In PETA’s favor, she is a public figure and it is stating a fact that she does not appear in fur. This is also not a commercial enterprise.

However, the restatement’s comments disagree that commercial use is a requirement:

652C Appropriation of Name or Likeness
One who appropriates to his own use or benefit the name or likeness of another is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy.

a. The interest protected by the rule stated in this Section is the interest of the individual in the exclusive use of his own identity, in so far as it is represented by his name or likeness, and in so far as the use may be of benefit to him or to others. Although the protection of his personal feelings against mental distress is an important factor leading to a recognition of the rule, the right created by it is in the nature of a property right, for the exercise of which an exclusive license may be given to a third person, which will entitle the licensee to maintain an action to protect it.
b. How invaded. The common form of invasion of privacy under the rule here stated is the appropriation and use of the plaintiff’s name or likeness to advertise the defendant’s business or product, or for some similar commercial purpose. Apart from statute, however, the rule stated is not limited to commercial appropriation. It applies also when the defendant makes use of the plaintiff’s name or likeness for his own purposes and benefit, even though the use is not a commercial one, and even though the benefit sought to be obtained is not a pecuniary one. Statutes in some states have, however, limited the liability to commercial uses of the name or likeness.

Recently we saw Woody Allen prevail against a commercial seller for the use of an image from a famous movie, here.

Given the controversies surrounding PETA, it is unlikely that the Obama Administration would want to have an apparent association with the organization (even if the First Lady might agree on the fur question). The White House has already objected to the picture. A great variety of organizations could use such images.

I am not sure if this was a calculated controversy or an honest view by PETA lawyers that you can use the image of a celebrity in this fashion. It is unlikely that the First Lady would seek damages from a public interest organization. I am just glad that this PETA featured fully clothed women, here.

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5 thoughts on “Fur Flies Over Advert: PETA Runs AD With Picture of First Lady Without Permission”

  1. PETA should be sued for using the first ladies picture without permission for their stupid campaigns PETA is for idiots alone

  2. The animals are in a DESPERATE SITUATIOn and need our sustained support to free them from pain and agony. If you disagree, swap places with a mink, chinchilla or lab, or CAFO animal and live a life of hell.
    I wish I didn’t have to devote my life to saving animals from pain, torture, and greed from humanity. I wish I could do my art without thinking that there is abuse to animals every second and I need to act in order to not feel or think about their pain. That for me would be peace on earth.
    “For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” ~ Pythagoras, Pre-Socratic Greek Philosopher

  3. Ignoring the legal problems with PETA’s use of the First Lady’s photo, morally it stinks. PETA knew she didn’t agree to endorse their position and yet felt comfortable misleading the public and using ‘property’ that they had no right to use. It smacks of desperation and poor judgment.

  4. The decision to leave them clothed was indeed fortuitous, but uncharacteristically smart considering PETA was behind it. I guess someone stopped just long enough to do the “outrageous wackiness vs. getting sued out of existence” calculation.

  5. Even bad publicity for Peta is Good. If per chance a controversy erupts it becomes political.

    Heck do it the LBJ and BushI way. Invite an IRS agent to take a look at the books. This is how I understand LBJ kept people under scrutiny. Well he had Hoover as a party favor. Then again, ask Willie how real good that weed was he burnt on top of the White House. I guess he didn’t sing Sugar Top Mountain or on Top of Ole Smoky?

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