Corbis Corp. maintains a large database of images, which it licenses through a website displaying sample images. The plaintiff in Jones v Corbis Corp. (CD Calif., 25 May 2011) objected to Corbis’s use of her image, taken as she walked down the red carpet at some Hollywood event, on the grounds that it breached her rights of publicity without consent. (For those old enough to remember, the plaintiff is Shirley Jones, the bus-driving mum of The Partridge Family.)
Wilson J of the US District Court for the Central District of California disagreed with Jones. She consented to the taking of the pictures and knew the photographer would distribute them to commercial entities like Corbis. It was also open to her to enter the event through a private door, without proceeding down the red carpet. A notice was posted at the beginning of the carpet stating that any photos that were taken would be disseminated. Jones’s consent to distribution was therefore implicit. Not even Corbis’s use of the sample image on its website could be objected to: Jones had effectively consented to that too. The 9th Circuit has recently dismissed Jones’s appeal: 2012 US App LEXIS 14543. Corbis operated ‘within well-known and established customs in the industry’ and Jones gave her ‘apparent consent’ to its use of the images, based on the objective determination of a reasonable person.