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Rihanna in court

Rihanna has a new claim to fame. She has won a landmark case that sets out more clearly than ever what celebrities can and cannot expect in the UK in the way of legal protection of their “image”. 
Topshop had been selling a fashion t-shirt displaying a “striking image” of Rihanna. It had been taken by an independent photographer for her “Talk That Talk” Album and was similar to images used in connection with the album.
Rihanna is a known fashion icon has a business of endorsing products, by licensing her name or her “R slash” logo as a brand .
The Court of Appeal confirmed that English law does not recognise an “image right” or “character right”, that would let a celebrity control the use of their her name or image. Celebrities cannot claim a monopoly in their image, as if it were a trademark or brand. (Scots law is the same on this point). The copyright (the right to make and sell copies) in the offending photograph) belonged to the photographer, not to Rihanna. Topshop had not put Rihanna’s name or “R slash” logo on its products. Rihanna (just like everyone else) has no general right to forbid photographs. Just being a celebrity does not create any image right.
All businesses (some more than others) generate “goodwill”, defined as “the attractive force that brings in custom”. “Passing off” is the legal remedy for hijacking the goodwill of  someone else’s business to boost your own by giving the impression of a connection that does not actually exist.  If a celebrity exploits their own celebrity commercially (or gets a company to do so) that is a business and its goodwill is the “attractive force” of the celebrity.
Although Rihanna’s existing business enterprises involved licensing specific products and had some features of “character merchandising” (like Star Wars and Disney products)  their goodwill was not limited to that kind of merchandising They went  further, involving product endorsement and the exploitation of her status as a fashion icon. She had made considerable efforts to promote an association in the public mind between herself and the world of fashion. Consequently the goodwill generated went beyond that of a character merchandising business. In the past Topshop had run a competition with the prize of a shopping appointment with Rihanna.  Its staff had also used social media to publicise a visit by her to the shop and the tweeted reactions showed how strong Rihanna’s “attractive force” was to the shoppers in her fanbase. This was taken to show that Topshop was well aware of Rihanna’s attractive force for fashion products. The Court of Appeal was in no doubt that   using a “striking image” of Rihanna on t-shirts without her permission was an unauthorised exploitation of the goodwill belonging to her business interests.