Friday, September 6, 2013

One picture is worth…what, exactly?

Raise your hand if you recognize the name “Gita Hall May” (No link – you have to do this on your own).…Anyone?…Anyone?  

Here’s some help – think 1950s, 1960s…Model, actress, girl-about-town…Still no clue?  

Miss Stockholm of 1952.  Claimed by Walter Winchell to be his “discovery.”   Married briefly to the actor Barry Sullivan.  Photographed with celebrities such as Shelley Winters and Gary Cooper.  Claimed friend of Errol Flynn.  New York roommate of Tina Louise (as in Ginger on Gilligan’s Island).   

If you still haven’t placed her, don’t feel bad.  The above information is the best I could do.  If you have been searching the web, you have by now found the same information and likely have seen a picture or two of the lovely redhead.  But be truthful—even after looking at her pictures, did you actually recognize her?  I didn’t.

Let’s try another route.  Are you a fan of the cable television show Mad Men?  The AMC drama about Madison Avenue advertising in the 1960s?  The show’s opening credits show a man (animated) falling from a tall building and slowly passing a number of images superimposed on buildings that reflect or are suggestive of advertisements of the era. About two-thirds of the way down, if you look quickly, you will see – for a second or so – the face of a striking redheaded woman.  That is Gita Hall May. 

The image of Ms. Hall May’s head used in the Mad Men opening sequence is cropped from a photograph taken in the late 50s for a Revlon Satin-Set hairspray ad.  According to Ms. Hall May, she consented to the use of her photo for the Revlon ad (for which Lionsgate is believed to have obtained a license), but not for its current use as a “centerpiece” of the opening of the award-winning – and highly profitable – Mad Men.  Gita Hall May sued Lionsgate Entertainment, the producer of Mad Men, claiming that the use of her image in the title sequence without her permission violated her right of publicity and she is entitled to compensation because her picture was important to the success of the program and has contributed to its profits.  Last month, the suit was settled on undisclosed terms.  

The “right of publicity” is a recognized intellectual property right largely governed by state law – by statute in nearly half the states and by common law in most, if not all others.  It is the right to control the commercial use of one’s own image, and may be applied to one’s name, voice, likeness, gestures or mannerisms signature or other element of personal recognition.  This right belongs to everyone, but as a practical matter is rarely the subject of a dispute except in connection with celebrities.  

Although Gita Hall May’s photo may have been used in a commercial work, there were few who thought she would win.  The issues can be complex, but Lionsgate had good legal arguments.  And even if found liable for the violation, most seriously questioned that there would be much compensable value to the one-second or so view of Hall May’s picture – which is one of some 40+ images used in the opening sequence.

We’ll maybe never know why the matter was settled – why Lionsgate was presumably willing to pay to make it go away and/or what Gita was willing to accept.  While both sides probably agreed for economic reasons, I like to think that Lionsgate decided to respect this former beauty who likely received a mere pittance for the original photograph and Gita was happy to once again be in the spotlight.  I do hope that part of the deal did not involve removing Gita’s picture from the opening sequence.  I like knowing that she is real and that the images do actually come from another time.

No comments :

Post a Comment