Julia Child Foundation Sues Airbnb over Contest

Get Legal Help Today

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Sep 23, 2016

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Julia Child's KitchenThe Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts sued Airbnb after the company ran a contest in which a prize was a free night at a vacation home once lived in by the famous chef.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Airbnb contacted the Foundation in April seeking permission to use her name and picture for the contest.

Child had a policy of refusing to endorse cooking products or letting her name be used in advertising. The Foundation thus denied the request.

Despite this refusal, Airbnb’s marketing firm later sent out an email describing the home in Provence, France, and saying that guests could look through “the knickknacks in her kitchen exactly as she left them.”

Child, who died in California in 2004, last visited the house in 1992. According to the complaint, Child and her husband rented the property but didn’t own it. The Foundation said she removed her cooking equipment on her last visit.

Child’s home kitchen, with her cooking equipment, has been reconstructed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Table of Contents

Right of Publicity

The Foundation’s complaint seeks damages and injunctive relief for misappropriation of the right of publicity under California Civil Code section 3344.1.

The Celebrity Rights Act was passed in California in 1985. Civil Code section 3344 protects the publicity rights of living people, while section 3344.1 protects the rights of dead people.

Under California law, a lawsuit claiming unauthorized use of a person’s name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness can be brought up to 70 years after the person’s death.

The law applies to anyone who qualifies as a “deceased personality,” which means any person whose

name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness has commercial value at the time of his or her death, or because of his or her death, whether or not during the lifetime of that natural person the person used his or her name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness on or in products, merchandise, or goods, or for purposes of advertising or selling, or solicitation of purchase of, products, merchandise, goods, or services.

In California, the publicity right is a form of property rights and can be bequeathed to one’s heirs.

Previously, the California Supreme Court had held in the 1979 Lugosi v. Universal Pictures decision (involving iconic images of actor Béla Lugosi as Dracula) that the right of publicity, including the rights to a person’s image, ended with the person’s death and could not be bequeathed to heirs.

Takeaway

Most people are aware that they can’t just use the name or picture of a live celebrity to promote products or services without permission. However, using the image of a dead celebrity can also lead to a lawsuit.

Publicity rights are governed by state law. Indiana’s is especially far-reaching, and protects rights for 100 years after a person’s death.

Thus, before using the name or image of even a long-dead celebrity in advertising, it’s a good idea to check whether publicity rights survive death in your state. If they do, then you can try to contact the heirs to obtain permission.


Photo Credit: By Kevin Burkett from Philadelphia, Pa., USA (Julia Child’s KitchenUploaded by SunOfErat) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption