Former Partridge Family actress Shirley Jones filed a putative class action suit against photo agency Corbis, alleging that the company’s inclusion of her name and image on its database violates her publicity rights under California law.
Jones, an actress and singer who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1960, is best known for her work as the mother on the 1970s television show The Partridge Family. Her suit claims that Corbis operates multiple Web sites providing images that can be licensed for use in commercial products and advertisements. Users search for a celebrity and choose to license the images in the search results. Rates vary depending on the end use of the image (lower prices for newspaper articles and higher prices for ads or other commercial purposes), the duration of the time period the image will be used, and the size of the image used, according to the suit.
Users can license the images for advertising, retail, editorial use, book publishing, and television or video, Jones alleges, all purely for Corbis’ commercial purposes. She claims that Corbis’ operations violate her publicity rights and her ability to control the use of her name, image, and likeness in violation of California law. As supporting documentation, Jones included 10 images of herself that the Corbis site had uploaded during 2010. Jones estimates that the class will likely exceed 100 members, with aggregate claims totaling over $5 million.
To read the complaint in Jones v. Corbis Corporation, click here.
Why it matters: Corbis has been sued over similar charges twice before, including a 2009 suit by actress Anna Maria Alberghetti and Bonnie Pointer of the Pointer Sisters; however, the suits were dismissed for technical reasons. Although Corbis deems the Jones suit frivolous, if she prevails, it could make it much harder for photo agencies and photographers to market celebrity images online.