Guernsey image rights specialist Jason Romer says that a
Guernsey image right is the only way for an individual to have
their image rights properly registered and clarified, after the pop
singer Rihanna won her legal battle with clothing retailer Topshop
over a t-shirt bearing her image.
Mr Romer, partner at Channel Islands law firm Collas
Crill, was asked to speak to Shelagh Fogarty, lunch time
presenter on BBC Radio 5 Live's specialist news and
sports station, about the Rihanna case this week.
The facts of the case were straightforward enough, he said.
Topshop had used an image of Rihanna on a t-shirt, having acquired
the copyright permission (and an indemnity) from the appropriate
entity, and had placed the t-shirt for sale, initially calling it
the 'Rihanna' t-shirt.
While there was no copyright infringement, Rihanna felt that
there had been an infringement of her rights as a result and sought
an action for passing off (suggesting a connection with the singer
that did not exist). The judge agreed that there had been passing
off as fans of the star were likely to have bought the t-shirt
because they thought it was endorsed by her. High Court judge Mr
Justice Birss had said in his two-minute judgment there was
"no such thing as a general right by a famous person to
control the reproduction of their image."
Mr Romer and David Evans, Director of Collas Crill IP,
highlighted in a client briefing on Wednesday that, in contrast, a
unique registrable right has been created in Guernsey in order to
deal with issues such as this in a unique way.
Mr Romer said: "While this was a win for Rihanna, it neatly
illustrates the problems for anyone seeking to bring an action in
this area. The judge also made reference to the fact that there is
no offence in the UK for placing someone's image on a t-shirt
per se, subject of course to any copyright or privacy
The judge made it clear that there is today in England no such
thing as a free standing general right by a famous person (or
anyone else) to control the reproduction of their image. This
contrasts with the Guernsey position where a unique registrable
right has been created, in order to deal with cases such as this in
a direct way.
Mr Romer added: "This case rests on its unique facts, which
would probably only work in a handful of cases.
"For anyone else who can't rely on passing off and
wishes to have their image rights registered in some way, then the
Guernsey Image Right remains the only option available. We see this
type of case becoming far more commonplace in the future, as the
currency of image continues to grow. It will be interesting to see
the part that the Guernsey right has to play in this changing
Guernsey is the first jurisdiction to create a registrable image
right, enabling effective management and control of the commercial
use of a person's identity, and images associated with that
person, including distinctive expressions, characteristics or
attributes. Collas Crill IP has worked with a number of high
profile personalities from the worlds of sport, music and
entertainment to protect their personal brand and identity since
the image rights registry's launch earlier this year.
As reported in the market updates section of this newsletter, the UAE Ministry of Economy recently reviewed the fees charged by its various departments, including the Trade Mark, Patent and Copyright Office.
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