Jean Paul Gaultier is speaking out about the Amy Winehouse inspired collection that hit the runway just months after the troubled singer's death. Winehouse's family was less than pleased that the designer used her likeness in his show. The designer told Vogue UK: “I was surprised when she died that no one in fashion made an homage to her. Her look was fabulous, fantastic – it was unique...She naturally had the right make-up, the right earrings – it was a truly a style. And I love her voice, I love everything about her.”
While JPG may be the first person to pay homage to the singer after her death, others have used her likeness ... namely, Karl Lagerfeld for his Pre-Fall 2008 collection for Chanel, Love Magazine, Numero and even Vogue Paris, amongst others.
So, JPG's models had beehive hair, cat-eye makeup, a strategically placed mole and large hoop earring. They smoked and walked the runway to Winehouse's songs. Sounds like Amy's image to me, but what I want to know is: Could the Winehouses have copyrighted Amy's image and thus, prevented JPG from using it as the basis for his runway show? I would argue that the case law says yes. You may recall the Vanna White vs. Samsung case, where Samsung used a robot resembling White next to a Wheel of Fortune-like game board, in its commercial. Although the addid not use White's name orlikeness, the court held that Samsung had infringed her right to publicity by using her image/identity. The dissent here is pretty strong (in short: overprotecting IP as just as bad as under-protecting IP and this is an impermissible restriction on the 1st Amendment and fair use) but as of now, this is still good law. So, guess what Winehouse estate, you should get copyrighting if you are upset by others' use of Amy's image.