In an exercise of curious judgment The Weatherproof clothing company elected to employ a photograph of our President in an advertisement for its apparel.  The ad took the form of (at least) a giant billboard in Times Square a/ka/ The Crossroads of the World.  Weatherproof has stated to the media that the image was a news photo taken of Mr. Obama at The Great Wall of China and was “purchased” from the Associated Press.  It appears that Weatherproof didn’t bother to check with the White House and did not obtain a written model release.

Political and public relations considerations aside, Mr. Obama has every right to commence a lawsuit under (at least) The New York Civil Rights Law Sections 50,51.  That law which requires model releases to be signed and in writing, does not distinguish between politicians, models, celebrities, actors or just plain folk.  The law may be employed by anyone whose picture, portrait or likeness is employed for trade or commercial purposes without their written consent.  Legal remedies available include: compensatory damages, punitive damages and obtaining a court order directing the removal of the offending image.

In addition, Mr. Obama could bring suit based on various aspects of trademark law including The Lanham Act which generally state that the appearance of a false endorsement by a celebrity violates their right to commercially exploit their own personae.

I will be happy to represent the President without charge if he agrees to donate any and all proceeds to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and/or other cancer related charity. Mr. Obama,  my number is (212) 697-8777, I have an opening for a consultation anytime today and will be glad to fit you in.

As Kyle from South Park is want to say, “I think we have all learned something here today. That even big shot companies with lots of money can screw up from time to time”

Since Jack and I respect the rights of photographers, we suggest that if you want to view the ad yourself, Google the words “Obama Weatherproof Ad” and you’ll find a plethora of examples.

Edward C. Greenberg