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My Photograph Was Used for Commercial Purposes without My Approval

Posted by Eric D. Anderson | Sep 27, 2019

It's no secret that California is home to famous actors, playwrights, musicians and just about every other type of entertainer. Unfortunately, having worldwide renown comes with certain drawbacks.


If your image is well-known to the general population – or even to a niche market – then photographers and businesses have financial incentive to use your likeness. But what if you did not approve that use? Do you have grounds for a lawsuit?

The answers to these questions depend on your unique situation. Let's take a look at what California laws say about this matter:

California Laws Related to Use of Likeness

According to CIVIL CODE SECTION 3344-3346, if a person knowingly uses another individual's voice, photograph, likeness, name or signature in any merchandise, goods or products, or to sell or advertise, or to solicit purchases without the individual's consent, then the person will be liable for damages sustained by the individual or individuals injured as a result.

The violator will owe the injured party at least $750 or the actual damages suffered by the injured party. These damages are calculated in addition to profits from illegal use.

Recovering Compensation after Illegal Use of Your Image

It may seem obvious that a photographer or another party illegally used your image; however, recovering fair compensation is a complicated endeavor. You or your entertainment attorney will have to prove the gross revenue attributed to the illegal use, and provide evidence that the person violated the law.

You may also be entitled to punitive damages, attorneys' fees and related costs. An experienced entertainment lawyer can help you gather the necessary documentation to prove your damages so you recover fair compensation.

What Is Considered a Photograph According to CIVIL CODE SECTION 3344-3346?

A “photograph” is any moving or still photograph or photographic reproduction, or any video or live TV transmission of a person who is readily identifiable.

Just because an image looks like you does not necessarily mean that you have grounds for a lawsuit. In order for a photograph to be considered readily identifiable, the court must determine that a person who views the image with the naked eye could reasonably determine that you are the person in the image.

Also, you may not have grounds for a lawsuit if your image was used in connection with public affairs, news or a political campaign. This is even true if there are advertisements on the medium where your image is published. For example, if a news website publishes a photo of an actor being arrested at a political protest and there are advertisements on the website page, this does not necessarily mean that the actor must provide consent to use the image.

The legality of the use comes down to whether the image was so connected to commercial sponsorship or paid advertising that it constitutes a situation in which the actor would have to provide consent to use the image.

If you discovered that an individual, company or organization was using your likeness without your approval, contact Eric D. Anderson Law, LTD. An entertainment lawyer in Redlands will evaluate your case to determine if you have grounds for a lawsuit. Call 909-283-5494 to schedule a consultation.

About the Author

Eric D. Anderson

Eric Anderson: Civil Trial lawyer, Criminal Defense Lawyer, Sin Lawyer

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