By Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
If you live in the US, and maybe even if you don’t, you may have noticed that President-Elect (or perhaps President, depending on when you’re reading this) Obama seems to be everywhere. And no, I’m not referring to his pre-inauguration speech tour. I mean the Obama t-shirts, the Obama bumper stickers, and, um, the Obama thong, the Obama maracas, the Obama… dildo?
When did we move from the free advertising of t-shirts to “The Official Obama Pleasure Toy?” Is a sex toy with Obama’s face on it a clever moneymaking idea or just disrespectful? Is there a point when capitalizing on the popularity of a public figure–any public figure–goes too far?
Of course, Obama could sue them if he wanted to. He has a legal right of publicity like any other celebrity. It would probably be a bad PR move if he started going after the guy selling t-shirts on the street, and as for the more salacious items… since no one thinks that he’s the one selling them, he doesn’t take any heat from it. Though now that Bush is out of a job, he might take the time to sue the Head O State folks for the fake endorsement on their website: “I bought two… emission accomplished!”
Easy marketing over the Internet and sites like Cafe Press have made it simple for anyone to profit from someone else’s name or image. You might even get away with it, depending on how litigious the particular celebrity is. Publicity rights are covered under state law; they do vary, and in many states the right survives death and can be inherited. In other words, you may want to back off your plans to manufacture that Elvis vibrator.