Woody Allen Sues American Apparel

who got a woody?

Some of our readers might recall our timely reporting on an American Apparel ad showing Woody Allen as a rebbe, using an image taken from Annie Hall. As we reported, the ad was taken down quickly after Allen’s lawyers contacted American Apparel.

It seems that taking it down quickly didn’t appease Mr. Allen, who is suing American Apparel for $10 million for “blatant misappropriation and commercial use of Allen’s image” which he and his lawyers find to be “especially egregious and damaging” since he does not permit use of his image in advertisements here in the US and because American Apparel, according to the lawsuit, is known for the “racy” images in its ads.

$10 million seems to be a fair price to pay for a national advertising campaign. Dov Charney might want to put up the billboard again and point all the national media outlets which have covered this story to the ad.

Good luck to all parties involved!

27 Comments

  1. Larry Mark

    4/1/2008 at 3:49 pm

    It is my understanding that Allen was alerted to the billboard after reading about it on Jewlicious.com

  2. Aimee

    4/1/2008 at 4:11 pm

    Dooood, it’s an obvious spoof. It’s a parody of a parody. And if memory serves, didn’t Larry Flynt fight for the right to parody public figures? It’s a right protected by the first amendment. Woody should just stick to what he does best: drolling over Scarlett Johansson and making films that pale in comparison to his work in the 70s.

  3. themiddle

    4/1/2008 at 4:24 pm

    Larry, where have you been?! You haven’t posted in a while!

  4. Alex

    4/1/2008 at 4:27 pm

    or just being a talented, yet archetypal self-hating Jew.

  5. JSinger

    4/1/2008 at 4:49 pm

    Dooood, it’s an obvious spoof. It’s a parody of a parody. And if memory serves, didn’t Larry Flynt fight for the right to parody public figures?

    No way is advertising like this protected as a parody. It’s 100% infringement.

  6. John

    4/1/2008 at 10:17 pm

    total parallel whats happening here and what happen in hustler vs falwell. it’s all a stunt. in a few weeks he’ll announce a new movie and expect us all to go see it.

  7. ramon marcos

    4/1/2008 at 10:42 pm

    Using a copyrighted image to make money… not kosher. I’m assuming Woody copyrighted his image after “Annie Hall”. Maybe he was too busy taking suspect fotos of his adopted daughter/wife/whatever.

  8. themiddle

    4/2/2008 at 12:17 am

    Well, American Apparel isn’t being sued for copyright infringement. The article says, “The lawsuit accuses American Apparel of “blatant misappropriation and commercial use of Allen’s image” and notes that the company on its Web site promotes itself as one known for “provocative photography.””

    He is suing them for using his image without permission, not for the use of a copyrighted image from the film. I can’t figure out who owns the film, because Rollins-Joffe doesn’t seem to exist any more and they produced it. However, this lawsuit is about his possible right to control his image and the possible violation of this right by American Apparel.

    I think his case rests on whether he can show that the use of “provocative photography” in most other AA ads somehow hurts him by association. I assume he’ll win on the basis that they didn’t pay him to post his image, but he’ll win big if he can show that is somehow hurts his reputation. I don’t think that’s a compelling argument because he created that image of himself in the first place and AA is now a publicly traded company with many beautifully finished and arranged stores in the central shopping districts of many cities. In other words, they’re not Hustler, they’re corporate and no different than, for example, Calvin Klein with their “racy” ads.

  9. sliman

    4/2/2008 at 7:35 am

    Could someone please explain how Woody Allen’s reputation could be hurt by this ad. The guy marries his step daughter! American Apparel should send Woody a bill for the publicity.

  10. Larry Mark

    4/2/2008 at 11:00 am

    Breaking News: The Yiddish Defense League (or Defence League in commonwealth countries) is suing American Apparel for its incorrect usage and spelling of Yiddish in the ad. The YDL decided not to sue for $10 million, but for the discounted amount of $9,999,998. But if Dov pays cash, the YDL will throw in two pairs of pant, one a gabardine.

  11. det

    4/2/2008 at 11:52 am

    Way to go for American Aparel! You just can’t buy this much of publicity with just 10 millions dollars!

    Saludos desde Argentina!

  12. froylein

    4/2/2008 at 11:55 am

    Larry, then I’ll sue anybody who uses “shonda” instead of “shand”. 😉

  13. Adam Hyman

    4/2/2008 at 4:41 pm

    “Good luck to all parties involved!”

    LMAO

  14. WEVS1

    4/2/2008 at 4:49 pm

    I think the main thing is less the raciness (after all, dude got with his adopted daughter and sh*t) than Woody Allen has refused to endorse products here in the U.S. for a long time. It’s part and parcel of his “image.”

    In Japan and elsewhere, it’s another matter. I’ve seen his image in all sorts of ads for booze, cigs, whatever. Especially whiskey and cognac for some reason.

  15. really

    4/2/2008 at 4:54 pm

    Ok well if he was so taken aback by the negative effects this would have on his image why didn’t he sue back in 2007? They issued the cease and desist, AA complied, but they stood quiet until Woody had a movie to promote.

    Talk about shameless self promotion

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  18. Chris Parsons

    5/20/2008 at 9:56 am

    Why would any company pay a public figure to endorse their products if they were free to use whatever images were available of anyone they wanted? American Apparel committed an act of theft.

  19. themiddle

    5/20/2008 at 12:00 pm

    Chris, I’m not a lawyer but the image that was used was from a movie and the owners of that movie would own the copyright to this image. I assume that if you’re right and this is “theft” then the victims are the movie’s owners. But it is Allen who is suing and the suit is described as “blatant misappropriation and commercial use of Allen’s image.” Does that mean that if I use an image from, say, an “Indiana Jones” movie to promote a business, that Harrison Ford can sue me? He doesn’t own the film.

    Anyway, hasn’t anybody heard of asking for a public apology and a donation to charity?

  20. Chris Parsons

    5/20/2008 at 2:14 pm

    The film studio does not wholly own the images of the actors in their films. There are imposed limitations and Steven Spielberg cannot legally license images of Harrison Ford from his movie to imply he endorses Dewars scotch, Levi’s, or any other product.

    It isn’t the movie that merits the attention. If it were an image from another scene of the movie where the actors weren’t featured prominently, no one would take issue. What percentage of American Apparel customers can identify the movie from which it was taken and what percentage can identify Allen? Do you believe using an image of Harrison Ford from Indiana Jones to generate revenue is within your legal rights?

  21. themiddle

    5/20/2008 at 3:06 pm

    Does Harrison Ford have the right to restrict Spielberg from getting money from Toyota to use their cars exclusively in the film? If he doesn’t, then he is lending his presence for an endorsement of products for which he receives no remuneration.

    Your question about the percentage of American Apparel customers is interesting. I would think most AA customers couldn’t identify the movie OR Woody Allen although I probably agree that more would recognize Allen over the film.

    But it’s your final question that brings me back to mine. I don’t believe it’s appropriate and it is probably not within my legal rights to use an image of Ford in an IA movie to generate revenue or other responses. However, if I were to briefly use an image of Jones in a humorous way on one billboard (when I have a national presence) and remove it immediately upon notification from Jones’ people that it offends him, then I would think that my “crime” is a small one. The notion that it merits a $10 million lawsuit (even if it’s just a starting point for settlement talks) is absurd and it is even more ridiculous to suggest that harm has been caused to Allen because the image is one that he himself put up on screens.

    Even the claim that association with American Apparel somehow harms Allen’s image is relatively weak since the image used is clearly intended to be humorous and doesn’t indicate that Allen, the person, supports the company. Rather, the impression I get is that a character created by Allen – and clearly a humorous character at that, especially if you know the history of AA advertising – is a supporter of the company. In other words, a “literary” creation – a fiction – is a fan.

  22. Chris Parsons

    5/20/2008 at 7:40 pm

    Advertising is a profession for a great number of people. It is their livelihood. American Apparel chose rather than pay for creative services, to steal work for which they know they haven’t the right to use. A cease and desist letter is not a deterrent from doing it again. It is not about Woody Allen or the car deals made by movie producers working on Harrison Ford projects. It is about a tee shirt company stealing intellectual property to generate more money without incurring the costs associated with advertising. They could have reshot a similar image but it wouldn’t have had impact that shot with Allen had.

  23. Chris Parsons

    5/20/2008 at 7:44 pm

    I do agree it doesn’t pose any significant harm to his reputation. I would think he may benefit from it.
    It does, however, lower his market value for any future commercial endorsement.

  24. themiddle

    5/20/2008 at 8:52 pm

    On the contrary, it increases his market value precisely because this generated press and attention. He can make a fair claim that he doesn’t do advertising in the US market and this ad violates his efforts to maintain a particular posture in this marketplace, but it is very hard to convince me that his market value has done anything but move up after this.

    I would like to know how many billboards and other ads American Apparel has going on in the US at any given time. This was one billboard that was up briefly and really didn’t get much attention. Allen’s lawsuit created far more attention to the ad than anything that preceded the suit. I think that even if you make the claim that AA stole intellectual property here, and again, I’m not debating that point (just that it’s not Woody Allen’s but the film owner’s intellectual property), the first question that comes to mind is what would be the value of this action. One billboard out of dozens or hundreds plus who knows how many print and Internet ads just doesn’t seem to amount to much.

    However, if Woody Allen wishes to amuse me as he has in his fine films – especially the earlier ones – with lawsuits that appear to inflate a minor offense to mercurial status, that’s fine. Somebody has to generate copy for AP and Reuters. And Jewlicious.

  25. Jack

    5/31/2008 at 11:52 am

    Woody Allen is a child molestor. How does he end up marrying his stepdaughter? Sick bastard!

  26. DK

    5/31/2008 at 12:11 pm

    This fight is a tragic chapter in our quest for the ever-elusive goal of Jewish unity. Particularly today, when the Lower East Side is deemed an endangered historic area, Woody and AA should be banding together to stop the bulldozer of the developers. Perhaps AA could help those who are seeking to stop the destruction, and could invite Woody–who has expressed concern over the L.E.S.’s destruction, to join them.

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