When we read about that coat company’s Obama-touting Times Square billboard this week, we couldn’t help but notice the legal reflection offered by the company’s president. Asked whether he’d taken a risk (the company had used an Associated Press photo from the president’s recent visit to China, which captured him sporting a Weatherproof coat) the exec told the New York Times: “Is it a calculated risk? Not being an attorney -- I’m being, really, a designer, merchandiser guy in the apparel business -- I would leave that to the attorneys or whatever. We’re not saying President Obama endorses Weatherproof apparel.”
Yeah, leave it to the attorneys or whatever!
Asked to give this calculated risk a quick analysis, Sheppard Mullin partner Guylyn Cummins, a media law expert, said it was a tough call.
See Weatherproof adopt a middle-of-the-road solution, after the jump ...
“Obviously they didn’t just steal Obama’s image and stick him in one of their coats,” Cummins said. (The Times story said the company paid the AP a licensing fee for its photo.) “The Associated Press took a newsworthy picture of him in China on a historic visit, and he just happened to be wearing that coat.
“That kind of argues for a newsworthiness defense. On the other side of the coin, it’s a billboard, which is just an advertisement. It’s a pretty close call as to whether or not there would be liability.”
The company’s president has reportedly said he’d “never anticipated this kind of press coverage.” And we see today that he’s promising to take the billboard down -- by January 22. You know, soon or whatever.
— Kate Moser