Citation. 989 F.2d 1512, 1993 U.S. App
Brief Fact Summary. Defendant ran a television ad, which depicted Plaintiff for the purpose of selling Defendant’s VCR. Plaintiff sued Defendant for appropriation.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Television and other media create marketable celebrity identity value. The law protects the celebrity’s sole right to exploit this value whether the celebrity has achieved her fame out of rear ability, dumb luck, or a combination thereof.
Facts. Vanna White (Plaintiff) is the hostess of “Wheel of Fortune.” Plaintiff markets her identity to various advertisers. The dispute in this case arose out of a series of advertisements prepared for Samsung (Defendant). The advertisement, which prompted the dispute, was for Samsung videocassette recorders. The ad depicted a robot, which was consciously presented to resemble Plaintiff next to a game board that is instantly recognizable as The Wheel of Fortune. Defendant referred to the ad as the “Vanna White” ad. Plaintiff neither consented to the ads nor was paid. Plaintiff sued Defendant for: (1) California Civil Code section 3344, (2) the California common law right of publicity; and (3) the Lanham Act. The district court granted summary judgment against Plaintiff on each of her claims. Plaintiff appealed.
Issue. Is the appropriation of a person’s identity without consent an invasion of the right to privacy?