In California lawsuit, model alleges ‘Mad Men’ hasn’t permission to use her image

| Mar 4, 2013 | Intellectual Property Litigation

A one-time model and actress has filed a lawsuit in California against the production studio behind the hit cable series “Mad Men,” alleging that its title sequences uses her likeness without her permission.

Sometime in the early 1960s, Gita Hall May was shot by famous fashion photographer Richard Avedon for a Revlon campaign. In her lawsuit, May claims the image “perfectly personifies the period” and represents “iconic female beauty.”

May, who is now 79, claims that she only gave permission for her image to be used in the Revlon campaign and never said it was okay for Lionsgate Entertainment to use it in “Mad Men’s” title sequence (which, by the way, is very well-respected among art and television critics and won an Emmy in 2008 for ‘outstanding main title design.’)

Lionsgate has not commented on the suit.

Because we regularly work with intellectual property clients, we are intrigued by this scenario.

In many cases, models sign releases that allow images taken of them to be used without requiring their future permission or prior approval. However, that may not have been the case back in 1960.

We also assume that Lionsgate paid someone for the use of the image, but perhaps it did not, or else it may have paid a party that did not have rights to the photograph in the first place.

In any event, we think this is an interesting claim. We are not intimately involved in the case, so we cannot predict what is likely to happen in the future, but we plan to keep an eye on what happens here.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, “Ex-Model, 79, Sues Over Appearance in ‘Mad Men’ Title Sequence,” Alex Ben Block, March 2, 2013

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