With all the recent hubbub around General Motors reorganizing its marketing campaigns and strategies, this ad-based lawsuit stands out like a sore thumb.
Way back in September, GMC ran four-page ad in People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue. Nothing special there. However, a part of the ad used Einstein’s face on a model’s body, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has the rights to his image (which earned $10 million last year)
Now the university is suing GM for $75,000, claiming Einstein’s likeness was fraudulently used in the ad. GM spokeswoman Ryndee Carney defends GM by saying the automaker bought the right to use the image from a known firm, and that the ad itself (which only ran in that issue) was created by the Leo Burnett agency.
John T. Brooks, an estate/trust lawyer for Foley & Lardner LLP in Chicago, explains how all this might play out: “It may be GM thought, ‘Oh, he died and the rights are all public domain now.’ It’s old and cold and nobody’s got rights to it…I suppose you could make a business decision that you can make so much money that you can withstand a lawsuit that would tell them to stop and fine them something. It wouldn’t be the first time a corporation has done something thinking they might pay the price for it, but it’s worth it.”
Of course it’s worth it; all this lawsuit is for General Motors is extra publicity generated by a bought-and-pain-for ad from last September.
By Phil Alex