A Florida radio station ran billboards (pictured above) showing Britney Spears and one of the station’s DJs, suggesting that she and DJ were ‘nuts.’ Ms. Spears contested the use. The radio station is pulling the billboards. Unfortunately, the Smoking Gun has printed only one of Britney’s lawyers letters, not the one that contains ‘many legal authorities.’ However this letter does site Florida statutes and law. Interestingly, the two cases cited do not apply to media defendants.
There is some precedent for media defendants to utilize someone’s name or likeness if the person was the subject of the media’s product. In Velez v. VV Pub. Corp., the Village Voice used an unflattering photo of local politico Ramon Velez (a subject of Voice exposes), in an advertisement for the Voice. The use of the photo fairly represented the Voice’s news coverage. 135 A.D.2d 47, 50, 524 N.Y.S.2d 186, 187 (1st Dept. 1988) (“[T]he incidental use in an advertisement by a news disseminator of a person’s name or identity does not violate the statutory proscription, if it had previously published the item exhibited as a matter of public interest.”
In Montana v San Jose Mercury News, the newspaper sold posters of Joe Montana following a Super Bowl victory, which posters were held to have news value due to their ‘relatively contemporaneous’ publication. Because the use was in connection with merchandise rather than a mere advertisement for the newspaper, this ruling seems like a bit of an outlier. 34 Cal.App.4th 790 (1995).
See more discussion by Stanford University Library here.
If you’re aware of Florida caselaw that would suggest how a media defendant using a name or likeness in advertisement for its services might fare, send it on in.