What? You didn't know there is a Buzz Aldrin Tops trading card? Trade you 2 Buzz Aldrin's for a Jeff Beck....(There must be a Beck card, or one on the way....)
Topps trading card company released a set called the "Topps American Heritage: American Heroes Edition." This set included images of more than a hundred well-known American politicians, actors, athletes, scientists, organizations, artifacts, and events. The back of each card also contained historical information about the image displayed on the front. Buzz Aldrin is on one of the cards.
Mr. Aldrin sued for use of his name, image and likeness without his permission, and sought a preliminary injunction. The court denied the preliminary injunction motion because it found Topps’ use of Aldrin’s name, image and likeness was protected speech. The court stated that “the cards use[d] Aldrin's name in the course of conveying information about his historically significant achievements” and were not used for purely commercial purposes like advertisements. The denial is on appeal, and even if the denial stands, the court may eventually find that Tops needs to pay Mr. Aldrin for using his name, image and likeness (although much more likely the case will settle quietly).
My take is the court got it wrong and I disagree with the decision. Tops cards are purely a commercial exploitation. They are not encyclopedias, or in the public interest - and they are not necessary to freedom of speech. We don't have to dumb down the world a little bit more by relying on trading cards to educate kids, and it's a BS argument anyway. These cards are bought and traded by collectors and aficionados and have no significant educational value. Obviously, the information on the cards is available elsewhere in legitimate educational publications.
Bottom line - Tops should pay ALL celebrities for using their name, image and likeness on trading cards.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Thursday, January 12, 2012
The case is Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., et. al. v. X One X Productions, A.V.E.L.A., Inc., et al., 644 F.3d 584 (8th Cir. 2011). Defendants obtained old movie publicity materials - posters and lobby cards - took images of famous characters from the materials, and licensed the images for use on apparel and other goods. The promotional items were not protected by copyright (but the films were, of course) - the court found they were in the public domain. However, when the images displayed on the licensed merchandise evoked the film character, the court found infringement. Here's a link to the story.