The gossip blogs are abuzz today about the Lindsay Lohan PR machine's reaction to a movie in the works that's reportedly based on her. In one corner, filmmaker Charles Castillo, who has repeatedly mentioned Lohan's name with regard to his upcoming Dogs in Pocketbooks, but claimed today that the movie is more a spoof of contemporary star culture than a biography of the embattled actress. In the other corner, the Lohan team, which has issued loud lawsuit threats about "unauthorized use of her likeness." But does team Lohan have a case?
According to Dina Lohan, mother of Lindsay, yes. "We have a very strong case," she said. "It's shadowing E*TRADE." That last, of course, refers to the Lohans' suit against that company for a commercial in which a "milkoholic" baby is named Lindsay -- which is an interesting reference, since that clearly ridiculous suit was withdrawn and E*TRADE apparently suffered no penalties (see the commercial below).
In reality, though, probably not. The complaint, again, is that Castillo is making unauthorized use of the starlets "likeness," a category normally reserved for name or image. Since neither her name nor actual image (the Lohan character will be played by Lydia Hearst) is represented, that would weaken the case significantly. There's also first amendment protections for satirical works. But here's the real kicker in an unlawful name or likeness claim, via the Citizen Media Law Project:
For an Exploitative Purpose: The plaintiff must show that the defendant used his name, likeness, or other personal attributes for commercial or other exploitative purposes. Use of someone's name or likeness for news reporting and other expressive purposes is not exploitative, so long as there is a reasonable relationship between the use of the plaintiff's identity and a matter of legitimate public interest.
Ah, and therein lies the rub: Note particularly the references to "other expressive purpose," under which auspices a film would most likely fall, and "legitimate public interest," which, if the tabloids are any indication, is pretty clearly the case here. Nevertheless, the lawsuit threats obviously have Castillo a little nervous; he told TMZ today that the reports the movie is based on Lohan are "blown way out of proportion." Understandably: A lawsuit, no matter how flimsy, is always a pain in the ass.
Why team Lohan is bothering is another question altogether, since their efforts seem primarily concerned with image control -- and ironically so, since lawsuits like these just kind of make them look like assholes.
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