In a decision that bodes well for future defendants in suits alleging violation of publicity rights, the 9th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action suit brought against photo agency Corbis.
Former Partridge Family actress Shirley Jones alleged that Corbis violated her publicity rights by licensing images of her for commercial use in various media by numerous entities.
Jones argued that the database illegally inhibited her ability to control the use of her name, image and likeness.
But in an unpublished opinion, a panel of the 9th Circuit disagreed, ruling that Jones had failed to establish an issue of fact regarding lack of consent.
To establish a violation of California’s publicity rights statute, “the plaintiff must prove that the defendant appropriated his or her likeness without consent,” the court said. “Jones admitted that she intended for the photographs at issue [taken on the red carpet at an event] to be distributed to media outlets and was not surprised that the photographers would use a third-party distributor. She also admitted that she had not placed limits on how such photographs could be distributed.”
The court concluded that Jones has provided “no reason why Corbis should have questioned her apparent consent to her photographs being distributed.”
To read the opinion in Jones v. Corbis Corp., click here.
Why it matters: This decision provides an argument for defendants in suits alleging a violation of publicity rights. Consent to use a name or likeness can be implied from the party’s conduct and circumstances, particularly within the “well-known and established customs of the industry,” the court said.