(Thursday), CRUMBS Night Out at the Linda Norris Auditorium
is very special indeedy. First up at 7 PM is major buzz-band/collective/traveling
circus Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned, who may or may not
play selections from their new EP Charles Mingus’ Garbage
Pile. Given their recent shout-out on NPR, an appearance
at SXSW, and an upcoming residency at Pete’s Candy Store in
Williamsburg, you really don’t want to miss this. Then, you
don’t want to miss the 8 PM music-biz panel discussion about
what’s up these days with indie labels, featuring the heads
of two of the world’s great and most-respected indie labels:
Steve Reddy of Albany’s alt-rock powerhouse Equal Vision Records
and Lincoln Mayorga of Chatham’s audiophile classical/jazz
label Town Hall Records.
There’s a special place in hell for attorneys like Stuart
Slotnick. Slotnick represents American Apparel, you know,
the company that makes “edgy” T-shirts, posts smarmy ads all
over the Web and everywhere else, and tries to be the fashion
voice of the 20-something consumer generation. (Recent post
on the company’s site: “Kim Karadashian: Ghetto Fabulous in
American Apparel!”). Gawd.
American Apparel used an image of Woody Allen in a recent
ad campaign, what looks like a screen capture of Woody decked
out like an Orthodox Jew from a scene in Annie Hall. This
is flat-out, hands-down, ridiculously illegal. Every state
in the union (and most every country in the world) has laws,
either common or statutory, against using somebody’s image
in an advertisement without their permission. You probably
already know this, but apparently the morons at American Apparel
didn’t, or were so gleeful in their commercial “edginess”
that they decided they were just way too hip for the law.
Note that this doesn’t only apply to celebrities. Everyone’s
image—yours, mine, Woody Allen’s—is protected. It’s really
a matter of privacy for most of us, of being left alone. For
celebrities, though, it’s something more. The use of an images
is more than an intrusion, it’s a taking, a hijacking, of
the celebrity’s endorsement and persona, the celebrity’s “right
So, naturally, Woody Allen sued American Apparel for this
gross and blatant offense. Not surprisingly, the notoriously
private Allen doesn’t endorse products in the United States.
In fact, Allen has previously stopped the use of Woody Allen
look-alikes in clothing ads appearing in magazines.
Enter Stuart Slotnick, Esq., who blabs to the press that,
essentially, American Apparel is going to put Woody Allen
on trial. Slotnick’s “theory” is that Allen’s personal life,
in particular his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn (which
I’m sure you all also know about), has resulted in Allen’s
commercial endorsement value being nil. Therefore, the “theory”
goes that Allen’s “damages,” which Slotnick apparently measures
as the market value of what American Apparel would have paid
Allen for the use of his image, is nonexistent as well.
Now, we can all argue about the morality and propriety of
Woody Allen’s personal life ‘til we’re blue in the face, but
I would offer the following: Allen and Previn have been married
now for 12 years and have two adopted kids. OK?
There’s a couple of issues here. One, American Apparel broke
the law in the most crass way possible, and the victim is
now getting pummeled? If Allen’s image is really so worthless,
why did American Apparel use it in the first place? And if
the measure of damages is the market value of the image, what
good is the law? Are the folks at American Apparel seriously
arguing that they can steal someone’s image, and if they get
caught, simply pay the “market value” of that use? Really?
What protection does that afford someone like, say, Woody
Allen, who chooses not to have his image used for any commercial
endorsement, period? What protection would that afford you
and me? What’s the value of the use of our image in a commercial,
particularly if we don’t want our image used? Would
Slotnick counter our lawsuits with smear campaigns about our
pasts, too? Really?
Slotnick noted, in his extracurricular conversations with
the press, that American Apparel had pulled the ads and apologized.
That’s mighty big of them. But that can’t be enough, either.
Lawyers are duty-bound to “zealously” advocate on behalf of
their clients. But there are boundaries of decency, boundaries
of the law, and boundaries of common sense that lawyers should
not transgress. Here’s hoping that a judge intervenes and
stops Slotnick’s charade. It’s disgusting. And here’s hoping
you remember this idiotic behavior next time you go out to