Do not use Audrey Hepburn’s Iconic Elements

That’s what the Court of Milan has stated on January 21, 2015 (judgment no.766/2015)!

This dispute originated with the use by an Italian company, Caleffi S.p.A. (Caleffi), of an image recalling the famous scene from ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ in which the actress, well-dressed in black, wearing sunglasses and pearls, was staring into the window of Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue boutique. Caleffi was promoting the prize contest ‘The dream diamond’. Audrey Hepburn’s heirs sued Caleffi and brought before the Court of Milan (Court) an action for damages based on the claimed violation of article 10 of the Italian Civil Code, on the use of the images of a person, and article 96 of Italian Copyright Law, on the protection of portraits.\

Caleffi’s defense was based on the assumption that it did not use an image of Audrey Hepburn. Instead, Caleffi photographed a model dressed in black, wearing sunglasses and pearls, staring at a generic jewelry window shop.

The Court rejected the claim for the infringement of Copyright Law, as that would have entailed the use of a portrait of the actress. However, the Court stated that there was a violation of Audrey Hepburn’s image rights, defined as fundamental personality rights recognized also by Italian Constitution. Indeed, based on Italian constant case law, the protection of the image of a celebrity extends to elements, including dresses, necklaces, hairstyles, representing his/her distinctive elements. Indeed the public is induced to refer an image including such iconic elements to the recalled celebrity. Consequently, Caleffi’s decision to use an image evocating Audrey Hepburn’s iconic image, without using the well-known portrait, was an unsuccessful attempt to avoid the request for authorization to Audrey Hepburn’s heirs as well as the payment of the due compensation. The decision is similar to and consistent with decisions in the United States, under the publicity rights laws of the various states, protecting artists such as Bette Midler, Tom Waits and Vanna White against the use of look-alike and sound-alike versions of those individuals.

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