Actress Katherine Heigl has settled with drugstore chain Duane Reade, owned by parent company Walgreens, over the use of a photo of the actress leaving one of the company’s stores. The actress took issue with the drugstore chain blasting out a paparazzi photo of her, shopping bags in hand, to its Twitter and Facebook users with the caption, “Even @KatieHeigl can’t resist shopping #NYC’s favorite drugstore.” Heigl did not formally endorse the drugstore, nor did she approve the advertising via Duane Reade’s social media accounts.
In her complaint, Heigl alleged that the drugstore chain “misused and misappropriated [the paparazzi photo] for its own commercial advertising” and that she had suffered substantial damages.
Reuters reports that the parties reached an undisclosed settlement, which Heigl’s attorney called “mutually beneficial” to both Heigl and Duane Reade.
While this might seem extreme, Forbes magazine notes that lawsuits like this one, particularly in the age of social media, are only going to become more common. Moreover, celebrities have the right to control their own public images, and are paid millions to endorse certain products or services. Here, where Duane Reade used Heigl’s image and tweeted it out to its more than 2 million Twitter followers, it capitalized on Heigl’s celebrity, and instead of paying her for an endorsement, implied one without paying a dime.
So what is the take away from this case? If you own a business, be extremely careful with the use of social media and advertising, especially when it comes to the name or likeness of prominent individuals. Suggesting that your company is endorsed by a certain celebrity without their express authorization is never a good idea.
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