Ariana Grande Sued Forever 21 for Using Her Likeness. What Exactly Does That Mean?


Ariana Grande didn't request consent before interjecting "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music in "7 rings." And she may have paid a cost for it: 90 percent of the sovereignties to Rodgers and Hammerstein. Grande's group took the effectively completed melody to Concord, the organization that possesses the incredible Broadway pair's index, only weeks before its January discharge. As Grande sings in the utilization as-strengthening hit, "I need it, I got it." 

Presently Forever 21 is in a comparable pickle—with Grande in the situation to possibly profit. Prior this week, the pop star documented a $10 million claim against the quick style retailer in a Los Angeles government court. Spoken to by legal advisor Daniel Petrocelli (of O.J. Simpson common case popularity), Grande claims that Forever 21 posted at any rate 30 unapproved pictures and recordings over its site and internet-based life stages, utilizing her name, resemblance, and music, after Grande turned down a support bargain. 

Grande's protests incorporate Instagram pictures of a carbon copy model purportedly dependent on the "7 rings" video. In the screen captures incorporated into the objection, Forever 21's model can be seen wearing feathery, pink pom-poms in her hair, just as purple camo jeans and white socks in another look—all like Grande's different outfits in the clasp. Some of Forever 21's posts utilized inscriptions that cited the verses to "7 rings," while certain video cuts, by and large, included the tune, the grievance declares. (The posts have since been brought down.)
Screenshots from Grande's court filing.
Intellectual property lawyers tell me Grande has a strong case and will probably win a settlement. And they say that, as the music industry increasingly looks for money outside of selling or streaming music, these types of legal fights could affect more and more artists. “This is the future of the music business,” says Ken Abdo, an entertainment lawyer who was involved in the dispute over Prince’s estate.
Although the case centers around social media, Grande’s strongest legal precedent is from decades ago, involving a different mass medium. California has a right of publicity law, which basically means you can’t use a person’s “likeness” without their consent. A landmark decision on this law came in 1993, when the Supreme Court allowed TV game-show hostess Vanna White to sue over an ad that showed a robot styled like her, turning letters as she does on “Wheel of Fortune.”
“That was just a classic example of using somebody’s celebrity image without their authorization for commercial gain,” says Jeff Kobulnick, an intellectual property lawyer who has represented Kendall Jenner’s business. “That’s very similar to what’s going on as alleged in this case.”
Much could depend on the Forever 21 lawyers’ counterargument. Music lawyer Mattias Eng, whose recent work includes a legal credit on Travis Scott’s Astroworld, tells me this case reminds him of a $2.5 million verdict that Tom Waits won in 1990—over a Doritos ad that used an impersonator singing in the style of Waits’ “Step Right Up.” “But whereas the soundalike was close enough to confuse a listener whether the voice was indeed Tom Waits,” Eng says, “it may be more challenging to prove that a consumer seeing the images in question are confused whether they are actually of Ariana or not.” In other words, even though the model resembles Grande, would anyone actually mistake her for the singer?
Grande makes other legal claims that could potentially move forward, including copyright infringement of “7 rings.” But her case is notable more for the issues involving her likeness—an area that could become fertile ground for pop-star lawsuits moving forward. “The music business is no longer just about the music, it’s more than ever about the aesthetic, lifestyle, and influence surrounding celebrities,” says Abdo. Social media has made it easier than ever for musicians to use their image to sell products, perhaps rather than selling records. California’s right to publicity law extends 70 years after an artist’s death, and it covers holograms, Abdo notes. “There’s going to be very little tolerance by the artistic community for people who mess illegally with their name and likeness.”
Allegations of copying may be merely business as usual in the fast fashion industry. Just in the music world alone, Forever 21 has weathered accusations of imitating merchandise from Frank OceanKanye WestTupac Shakur, and even staunch DIY advocates Minor Threat. Once the fight with Grande is over, who knows if the company may continue this pattern and simply say, “thank u, next.”

Click to comment