A recent, much-publicized right of publicity suit between Dustin Hoffman and Los Angeles Magazine demonstrates that in the 25 years since Cary Grant brought a similar suit against Esquire Magazine for publishing a composite fashion photo of Grant’s head on a model’s torso, the protection afforded individuals intent on controlling the commercial value of their identity has expanded, yet so too has the interest of corporate America in celebrity endorsement of products and services.
Hoffman v. Capital Cities/ABC Inc., No. CV 97-3638 DT, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 506 (C.D.Ca. Jan. 22, 1999) is a decision with major implications for the media as advertisers. In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Dickran Tevrizian redressed the damages sustained by actor Dustin Hoffman when defendant Los Angeles Magazine took a publicity still of his renowned “Tootsie” character from the 1982 film of the same title, dressed it, through computer-imaging technology, in a designer gown and heels, and included it with similarly altered and garbed celebrities in a fashion layout titled “Grand Illusions.” The caption to the composite Hoffman photo read: “Dustin Hoffman isn’t a drag in a butter-colored silk gown by Richard Tyler and Ralph Lauren heels.” Prices for the items, along with store locations, were listed in a shopping guide at the back of the magazine.
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