Legal Question in Business Law in New York

Use of celebrity pictures on website...

I sell women's celebrity fashions on my website: I collect pictures of celebrities from various different celebrity fan sites on the internet. I don't think that the owners of these fan sites have legal rights over these images. Also, several different fan sites for the same celebrity will have the same exact pictures. Anyway, I copy and collect these pictures and use them as somewhat of a reference to sell products the products on my site. Is this illegal? Do I need permission from these celebrities to use their pictures to help sell my products? I see lots of different celebrity fashion sites use pictures of celebrities to sell their products. I also see lots of celebrity weekly magazines use these same pictures that I use in their publications. Do they need permission to use the pictures? If so, from who? Do I need to put some kind if disclaimer on my site saying that these celebrities do not endorse my products? My most important question is if it is illegal to use these pictures on my site. I'd appreciate any and all information you can give me. Look forward to hearing from you soon.

Asked on 1/19/07, 2:28 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Mark S. Moroknek Kelly & Curtis, PLLC.

Re: Use of celebrity pictures on website...

It is improper to make commercial use of a person's likeness to sell a product without their consent. The photographs also are copyrighted material,and belong to the original publisher or photographer.

If you can determine who owns the copyrights you might find they ave arranged for commercial rights.

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Answered on 1/21/07, 6:01 pm

Kristen Browde Browde Law, P.C.

Re: Use of celebrity pictures on website...

Illegal is the wrong word - but using celebrity (or any other) pictures without license is inviting a lawsuit - one that you will certainly lose. A disclaimer will not help you.

There are multiple rights that attach to pictures, ranging from copyrights to rights of publicity. The discussion as to how one must clear the various rights in order to use the images without fear of lawsuit is reasonably complicated, but it's one which any intellectual property lawyer can have with you.

For the moment, though, the short answer is that use of an unlicensed picture can lead to substantial liability.

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Answered on 1/19/07, 3:04 pm

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