Assertion of character rights in UK advertisement

November 2003


It seems that one of the UK most successful advertisements ever will feature in a High Court action. The advert features two ‘twin’ runners with wild hair and handlebar moustaches in 70s style striped singlets and cut-away shorts running across the country promoting the new directory enquiries number 118118 owned by US firm The Number. 118118 has captured 50% of the directory market from British Telecommunications. The runners have sparked of huge popular support and widespread ‘cult’ appreciation. But David Bedford, the British 10,000 world record holder in 1973, claims the runners are based on his image. Mr Bedford’s solicitors have written to The Number claiming the advertising is based on Mr Bedford’s image, in particular his 1973 image, which featured wild hair, moustache, striped singlet and cut away shorts. The Number have rejected the claim as ‘ridiculous’ and claim the 118118 runner image is an ‘aggregate’ on 70’s runners and that most runners of that era sported wild hair and facial hair. They say that the only runner actually looked at was a friend of Mr Bedford’s from the 70s, Steve Prefontaine who died in a car crash in 1975. Mr Bedford, 53, is the race director of the London Marathon.
Actions for image or character rights are relatively new in the UK and are based on an intellectual property – the image – which can be passed off. Most recently the F1 Grand Prix driver Eddie Irvine won an action against TalkSport Radio who used a digitally manipulated image of the driver so that Irvine was seen to be ‘listening’ to TalkSport. The court recognised a property right in Irvine’s goodwill which could be protected from commercial exploitation.

See Law Updates June 2003: British singer Miss Kier alleges that her character rights are being used without consent

See Law Updates July 2003: Spike Lee wins surprise victory in action over Viacom’s ‘Spike’ channel

For an analysis of the 118118 item, See: The Guardian 13 October 2003, Media p10.
and See:

No Comments

Comments are closed.