Itsy-bitsy picture of astronaut on album cover

by Walter Olson on October 12, 2010

It’s resulted in a life-size lawsuit: “Bruce McCandless, the NASA astronaut pictured small and floating in space above the Earth, is now suing Dido, Sony Music, Arista Records and Getty Images for using his picture.” [Eriq Gardner, THR Esq.; Bruce Carton, Legal Blog Watch]

{ 10 comments }

1 L Nettles 10.12.10 at 8:17 am

They don’t make heroes like they used to.

Bureaucrats in Space.

Will they sue the Muppets next, surely he is identifiable as Pigs in Space.

2 Dennis 10.12.10 at 8:24 am

Was it a government taken photo of a government employee/public servant doing public work while on the public payroll? Then it’s out photo, too.

3 Richard Nieporent 10.12.10 at 10:56 am

Not being a lawyer, I would be interested in hearing from an IP lawyer as to the likelihood that he will win his lawsuit. Since Sony paid for the right to use the photograph, it would seem to me that Bruce McCandless’ likeness would have to be visible before he can win such a claim. After all it could just as well be Mohammed inside the Bear Suit … er … space suit as Bruce McCandless.

4 gasman 10.12.10 at 11:36 am

McCandless can own his picture in space when he pays for his ride ticket. Right now a ticket is about $20,000,000 http://www.space.com/news/millionaire-space-tourist-wants-to-go-back-100609.html)

5 Stewart Peterson 10.12.10 at 12:06 pm

IANAL, but I second Dennis – what grounds does he have to sue? The federal government doesn’t copyright its documents or media, so the photograph is in the public domain, no? Doesn’t that mean that nobody has any rights to it?

6 mojo 10.12.10 at 12:39 pm

I believe the photo was taken by NASA, who released it to the public.

Lotsa luck.

7 Dan Weber 10.12.10 at 4:55 pm

He’s not claiming copyright, he’s claiming publicity. If NASA takes a picture of a Mentos box it doesn’t mean I can use Mentos’s logo at will.

IANAL.

8 No Name Guy 10.12.10 at 4:57 pm

Wow. Don’t EVER use a crowd shot in any way for anything remotely commerical. Since you didn’t clear it with everyone in the crowd, you’ll get your @$$ sued off, especially if there happens to be a celeb-u-tard in the bunch.

9 David Schwartz 10.13.10 at 1:04 am

Unfortunately, right of publicity law is totally out of control. Kozinski’s dissent in White v. Samsung is one of my favorites.

10 Dirk D 10.13.10 at 9:16 pm

In order to prevail under the CA RoP statute McCandless has to be readily identifiable in the photo. I don’t see how he makes that case, unless the photo is more famous than I am aware of (i.e. one who looks at it knows it’s him despite the space suit).

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