PETA had planned to release a neuter-touting billboard in the next few weeks that features Tiger Woods’ picture with the ever-subtle headline “Too Much Sex Can Be A Bad Thing.”
Woods never authorised this use of his image (duh).
PETA was still searching for an advertiser in Windmere, Florida willing to put up the sign when Woods’ counsel pounced. According to TMZ, PETA said “plans to run our billboard are on hold at this time.”
Did Woods’ lawyers flex some of their hushing muscles, or is there an actual, legal precedent that would suggest PETA can not use his image?
Ira Levy, a partner at Goodwin Procter’s IP practice, said that while the laws that govern right of publicity are determined on the state level, he does not think the advertisement would be considered a fair use of Woods’ image without consent of the athlete. PETA may be a non-profit, but the billboard can easily be seen as a way to raise money.
Woods’ counsel would need to prove there was economic gain as a result of the billboard to secure damages, but not to get the organisation to take down the campaign.
“The bottom line here is that the image of a celebrity, especially in this instance, is an enormous economic asset,” said Levy. There is simply no reason Woods shouldn’t try to legally protect his image, especially from those who try to profit—from increased revenue or exposure—without permission.
Of course, the animal rights group is sure to get more press out of the attempt than if the sign had actually gone up on some local billboard in Florida. Poor Tiger, he just can’t catch a break.
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