Endorsements by celebrities can be a game changing event for a small business. A celebrity’s fans can take a product of service to new heights as soon as it is linked to their favorite celebrity. However, if the endorsement is not genuine, it can end up costing the small business a lot of money and good will.
Sometimes, a famous person may have their picture taken using a certain product in an everyday manner. For example, the person may be photographed wearing a shirt or pair of shoes that are unique to a particular business. What the business does with this image can make a big difference to its image and financial liability. If the photograph is on a social media platform such as Twitter, the business may be safe retweeting the picture from the original tweet without comment. However, if the business uses the picture in a way that implies endorsement, then the celebrity may bring a costly lawsuit for the unauthorized use of his or her image.
A misuse of a celebrity’s image can also be the result of a seemingly harmless message that references the celebrity or his or her brand. An advertisement by a business designed to congratulate or otherwise send a message to a celebrity, but in a way that seems to imply the celebrity endorses the business, can backfire and lead to an expensive lesson in the importance celebrities place on their brands and right of publicity.
Florida law recognizes a right of publicity, and generally prohibits the use of a person’s image or name for trade, advertising, or commercial purposes without the person’s express permission. Even if the celebrity is deceased, a business still needs to seek permission to use an image or name for commercial purposes. Therefore, the best way to start when seeking an endorsement from a celebrity whom the business thinks would be a great spokesperson is to ask for his or her permission. Depending on the celebrity, this may be out of reach for some small businesses who may not afford to pay the celebrity for the endorsement. An alternative is to simply enjoy any free press and association that may come with a celebrity being photographed or associated with the business without making comment.
On the flip side of this issue is if a business is associated with a celebrity who may be harming the business image rather than helping it. If the celebrity is not actively promoting the product, there is not much the business can do. However, depending on the actions the celebrity is engaging in, whether or not they are holding themselves out as a spokesperson, the business may be able to request that the person stop doing so. If the false endorsements continue, the business can consider legal action against the person.
Contact Us for Legal Assistance
For more information on how the right of publicity can affect your advertising plan, contact an experienced North Miami business law attorney at the Charlip Law Group L.C. for a consultation today. We are prepared to offer you professional counsel immediately.