Search form

Using celebrity likenesses/voices

16 posts / 0 new
Last post
Using celebrity likenesses/voices

I need to lay this out for all y'all:

Case 1: Real celebrity likenesses, real celebrity voices: Aerosmith and many others have made appearances on "The Simpsons." Sometimes a "Simpsonized" version of their likenesses are used, along with their ACTUAL voices. Also, The Three Stooges, Don Knotts, Harlem Globetrotters all played themselves on "Scooby Doo." Permission is obviously a must, since they had to agree to come down to record the dialog. Payment/royalties unknown.

Case 2: Real celebrity voice: Celebrities will often provide "guest voices" on cartoons. You might or might not recognize the voice, since you don't have the appropriate celebrity likeness to go along with it. Same as above concerning permission, payment/royalties assumed.

Case 3: Real celebrity likeness: While one example doesn't come immediately come to mind, I don't believe there would be an legal issues concerning the use of a celebrity's face on a background billboard or in the crowd, walking by. I'm making an assumption here that there would be no payment, no permission and no royalties. I guess a reasonable example would be a MAD Magazine drawing of a celebrity.

Case 4: The tough one - Real celebrity likeness, IMPERSONATED celebrity voices. Evidence Exhibit #1 - The Looney Tunes cartoon with Bugs in the nightclub with Marlene Dietrich, Groucho Marx, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, etc. I find it hard to believe that they got all those people to give permission, and then got them into a studio to record their lines. Maybe it's posssible that Warner Brothers used dialog from their movies, which they would have owned. I know Carl Stalling used either PD music, or music owned by Warner Publishing. But the voices....

Here's why: I am concerned about my desire to use celebrity likenesses AND impersonated voices in my cartoon. I'm afraid that LEGALLY it could be considered a "performance" by the celebrity and I would be liable to pay for their performance.

Case in point: My cartoon involves one of my own characters singing in a televised talent show. I have chosen to avoid the obvious celebrity judges, but have chosen instead to use three famous, living singers, who will not only speak dialog, but some of the dialog they speak will be the titles of songs they're famous for. This is not in the cartoon, but a good example would be Bon Jovi telling my villain that he wants him "Dead or Alive." We'd have a Bon Jovi character. We'd CALL him "Bon Jovi." And an impersonator would say his dialog.

EVEN if the three celebrities I want to use agreed to their own likenesses and voices, I would have to go to THEM with a DAT to record their dialog. The expense of bring them to me would be more than the cost of the cartoon.

In your opinions, would it be sufficient to contact their management and ask permission to use their likenesses and provide an impersonated voice if we included the dialog and how it would be used? Or, is doing anything even necessary?

Are there any examples, maybe "The Animaniacs," where what I want to do was done with no reprocussions?

You mentioned Mad Magazine.

Instead of Bon Jovi call him Jon Bovi or somesuch. As long as it can't be interpreted as slandorous, I would think by Mad magazine's statement in their indicia about resembling persons living or dead except for satirical purposes kind of sets a precedent i would think.

I do notice in many cartoons where there are caricatures, names are not mentioned although we laugh from the recognition.

It's pretty much a grey area I would think. Something like the Simpsons is so popular that being spoofed on their show is an indication that one has arrived as a celebrity.

Jon Bovi... that reminds me... I had an idea one time to do a cartoon with celebrities as animals: Bon Jon Bovine and Britney Steers, MC Hamster and Vanilla Mice.... Never went anywhere - no plot.

I had an idea and you touched on it a little bit... what if I didn't mention names at all? What if I showed a shot of the celebrities at the judges table and had the announcer say, "Here are tonight's celebrity judges!" and just showed the three of them at the table? They would speak later, but their names wouldn't be used.

You are pretty much safe if you parody not only the character but the voice and/or whatever is most important in portraying the character. My stuff fudges, because I may parody the character, but I use the actual sound tracks. If your dialogue is fresh and you use an impersonator, I am pretty much sure you are safe. That's how wierd Al and the gang at Saturday Night Live, the Simpsons and Mad get away with their stuff.

Check out the parody clause in copyright law.

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.

You should think about talking to a lawer. They can cover your behind so when to get to the point that you are going to produce your project, give one a call.

You are pretty much safe if you parody not only the character but the voice and/or whatever is most important in portraying the character. My stuff fudges, because I may parody the character, but I use the actual sound tracks. If your dialogue is fresh and you use an impersonator, I am pretty much sure you are safe. That's how wierd Al and the gang at Saturday Night Live, the Simpsons and Mad get away with their stuff.

Check out the parody clause in copyright law.

I know (from being a long time fan) that Weird Al gets permission, but he's even said himself that he does it more as a courtesy than necessity.

I must of have been sleeping when all the copyright hubbub erupted about the JibJab piece, but it's interesting to read about since we are talking copyright.

http://practice.findlaw.com/tooltalk-0904.html

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.

The rights of publicity, and privacy is a whole other ball of wax to consider:

http://www.artslaw.org/PUBPRIV.HTM
http://www.utsystem.edu/ogc/intellectualproperty/multimed.htm

If this is a serious commercial venture take wontobe's advice and get an attorney.

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.

Anyone else ever used to get those The Software Lab catalogs? Back in the late-late 80s, early 90s? There was a basketball game featuring Jordy Michaels (even--Larry Fowl). I think it was just called Three Point Basketball.

I am not sure what you are referring to Scattered, not being a big sports fan that one passed my radar, but I was reading about the Bette Midler case where they used one of her backup singers to do a commercial, and they lost the case because it sounded too much like Bette and she had passed on the opportunity to make that particular commercial. They particularly ask the backup singer to sound like her. So using impersonators isn't a good fix. But then again that in no way fell into a parody situation.

JibJab I think definitely falls in the parody section, concerning the music.

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.

Case 4: The tough one - Real celebrity likeness, IMPERSONATED celebrity voices. Evidence Exhibit #1 - The Looney Tunes cartoon with Bugs in the nightclub with Marlene Dietrich, Groucho Marx, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, etc. I find it hard to believe that they got all those people to give permission, and then got them into a studio to record their lines. Maybe it's posssible that Warner Brothers used dialog from their movies, which they would have owned. I know Carl Stalling used either PD music, or music owned by Warner Publishing. But the voices....

I think it's a case that the publicity and privacy statutes hadn't really come into their own back then. But they have been used lately and celebrities make extra bucks out charging for that kind of use now. I can only guess what they charge. I am sure it's out of my ballpark.

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.

I am not sure what you are referring to Scattered, not being a big sports fan that one passed my radar, but I was reading about the Bette Midler case where they used one of her backup singers to do a commercial, and they lost the case because it sounded too much like Bette and she had passed on the opportunity to make that particular commercial. They particularly ask the backup singer to sound like her. So using impersonators isn't a good fix. But then again that in no way fell into a parody situation.

JibJab I think definitely falls in the parody section, concerning the music.

They most like made a simple mistake, they did not talk to their lawer. In their advertisment, they just need to make your that everyone know that the person was not Bette Midler. Sales people get a little too gun-oh, so it might be they droped the ball on that ad.

I am not sure what you are referring to Scattered, not being a big sports fan that one passed my radar, but I was reading about the Bette Midler case where they used one of her backup singers to do a commercial, and they lost the case because it sounded too much like Bette and she had passed on the opportunity to make that particular commercial. They particularly ask the backup singer to sound like her. So using impersonators isn't a good fix. But then again that in no way fell into a parody situation.

JibJab I think definitely falls in the parody section, concerning the music.

They most like made a simple mistake, they did not talk to their lawer. In their advertisment, they just need to make your that everyone know that the person was not Bette Midler. Sales people get a little too gun-oh, so it might be they droped the ball on that ad.

Off Topic: My brother sent me this link http://www.planetdan.net/pics/misc/tetka.html

According to the testimony they intentionally didn't identify the singer as an impersonator, because they wanted the public to assume what they would, inorder to sell their campaign. It bit them in the butt.

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.

There were a lot more posts that I thought. I subscribed to this thread, and have been coming to the thread when I got the emails, except one time. It seems that day was the day most of this got posted, lol.

I went to all the links, even including the VERY off-topic one :)

The error with the Bette Midler issue was not taking "no" for an answer. They went after the sound-alike, and then didn't acknowledge that it wasn't the real thing.

First, let me point out that I will definitely run this by a lawyer before we start the actual project. At that time, I will have someone producing the actual animation, and I will make sure that they check into it even if they're not particularly concerned.

I do want to say that I have modified the script so that the names of the three singers are not mentioned. The host will say "Please welcome this week's celebrity judges!" The judges will be smiling and waving. Later, the three celebrities will storm the stage to "remove" the singer by force. All three celebrities will reference songs recorded by them (as well as one song that wasn't), but they will not be singing them. IMHO, it is not even a necessity that the voice actors sound that much like the celebrities. For instance, back to Bon Jovi - if you saw Bon Jovi's head and a generic male voice came out, would anybody but his mom know?

I have another concern that the three celebrities will, in fact, get whacked by the offensive singer. These attacks are targeted for the 10-year-old crowd though, and will be comical. No kid or parent anywhere is going to have nightmares of the abuse suffred by Bon Jovi. Cartoon whack, he's out of the picture.

I am thinking more and more that the closest analogy to my use would be a MAD Magazine parody. For example, if they parodied "Star Wars," had a likeness of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, and had him saying something about "Corvette Summer" or how hot Leia was. I wish I knew what their policies and procedures were for parodies.

To all who have volunteered something to this thread, thank you.

For several months now, even

For several months now, even probably about six months, I have been using what the guys from https://www.kvalifika.com/blog/The-Founder-Story create. In this connection, I want to advise you to read their amazing story and the features of their company so that you can use their services at the same time because it provides opportunities really professionally and efficiently. Highly recommend! Have a wonderful evening!