Evoking Audrey Hepburn’s image in an ad is not OK, says Italian court

March 2015




The IP Kat has noticed a recent trend in advertising, ie the use of the image of icons of the past and Eleonora Roasti has blogged on this.   Perhaps it was Dior and Chanel to start this trend a few years ago by using the image of a young Alain Delon as the face (and body) of Eau Sauvage   [and Marylin Monroe as that of Chanel No. 5, respectively. However these days it seems that everybody is doing it. The question thus becomes: do you need permission to use the image of a celebrity?

In those countries which recognise image rights  [not the case of the UK, as the Court of Appeal of England and Wales recently  confirmed in the Rihanna case ] , Italy being one of them   [see Article 10 of the Italian Civil Code] ,  the answer seems pretty straightforward: yes, you do need permission. But what happens when you do not use the image of a celebrity, but rather elements that merely evoke him/her  [see here for an interesting Israeli case] ?

The Court of First Instance of Milan recently dealt with these issues in an intriguing case concerning unauthorised use of evocative elements of Audrey Hepburn’s image in an advertisement by Caleffi.

Elisabetta Mina and Marina Lanfranconi (MILA Legal) explain the background to this litigation and the findings of the Court. Here’s what they write:

“Evening tube satin dress, pearl necklace, stylish sunglasses and a sophisticated hair is the attire chosen just to take a look at Tiffany’s windows: what actress do these elements unequivocally relate to in the general public’s mind?

In its decision on 21 January 2015 the Court of First Instance of Milan ruled in favor of Audrey Hepburn’s estate in a dispute against Italian company Caleffi. The Court found that the actress’s image rights deserved protection against unfair use of a number of elements bearing an evocative value which allowed the public to relate to her directly and unequivocally. This is because such elements have become indissolubly connected to her image given their peculiarity and notwithstanding the fact that neither the image nor other features of Audrey Hepburn had been reproduced in the advertisement.

This decision confirms the value of leading Italian case law in this area. Among these precedents, there is the 1984 decision of the Court of First Instance of Rome concerning infringement of singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla’s image rights over the reproduction, in an advertisement campaign, of his typically shaped woolen cap and a binocular pair of glasses (the singer’s longtime favourite ones). More than ten years later, in 1997, there was the decision of the Italian Supreme Court that overruled earlier rulings in the same case and found that the personality rights of well-known actor Totò had been infringed by candy and chocolate manufacturer Sperlari. This had used the word «Totò» as a trade mark and the stylised reproduction of certain main face features (crooked nose and almond shaped eyes), which clearly evoked the actor. The Supreme Court found that such use of Totò’s image was an undue exploitation to Sperlari’s own commercial advantage.

The latest instalment in this string of cases is the Audrey Hepburn one. The action originated from Caleffi’s ad campaign named “The dream diamond”, published by Caleffi on Italian weekly magazine Io Donna and on the company’s own website. In its campaign Caleffi made a photographic reproduction of an ambience and a character (played by a model) that according to Hepburn’s estate recalled Audrey Hepburn’s image and the well-known sequence from Breakfast at Tiffany’s in which the actress, dressed in a sophisticated attire, is looking at the windows of Tiffany’s in New York.

Caleffi counterclaimed that in its campaign it only showed a model with the mere intent to portray an elegant woman (not an Audrey Hepburn lookalike) glancing at a shop window. The Court of Milan did not agree with Caleffi, and held that the intent was clearly and specifically to evoke in the public‘s mind the image of the actress, as she appears in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, as a symbol of extreme elegance and sophistication.”

http://ipkitten.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/evoking-audrey-hepburns-image-in-ad-is.html and an interesting comment from Valentina Torelli on the 1709 blog cotrrectly points out that the ‘character’ portrayed was not Audrey Hepburn herself – but her ‘Holly’ character from Breakfast at Tiffanys – portrayed by Hepburn yes – but not actually Hepburn – Holly is a character devised by Truman Capote and here portrayed in a film directed by Blake Edwards:


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