Questionable use of Ellen Feiss' likeness in this ad September 1, 2002 11:30 AM   Subscribe

While the fad still exists, does anyone else have an issue with the textad for the Ellen Feiss parody? (scroll to nearly the end of the page) I'm not crazy about promoting profit from the theft of someone's likeness without their permission, but then again, this isn't my site. Should the bylaws of the textads merely weed out offensive material, or should they extend to intellectual property issues as well? While they may be two different things, a recent story on NPR highlighted that cafepress is deleting "Ellen Feiss" related stores as fast as they are created.
posted by machaus to MetaFilter-Related at 11:30 AM (21 comments total)

Yeah, someone else raised the issue with me privately. When I took the ad, I didn't think about it nearly as much as other ads, and it seemed to be one of many ellen feiss products around. I noticed that ellenfeiss.net was going gangbusters on cafepress (at the time). This is one ad I wish I took more time to notice and if given the chance, I would have denied it, as taking someone's likeness without their knowledge to make a buck is certainly not a good thing. I made a mistake on this one.

If it's any consolation, it'll be up in about three days and I won't allow it to be renewed.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:57 AM on September 1, 2002


it's (political) satire - what's wrong with spinning someone else's spin? would you object to a parody based on george bush? do you think she wasn't paid for this add? or is it just that the site might make some money selling the t-shirts? (i find this odd, but it seems to be the key point in my reading of the post above - what's so bad about making money? especially in america?)

i'm asking these questions because i'm interested in the reasoning here - i have no great desire to defend the advertiser or bash mathowie. i just find the opinons here interesting. i'm sure apple (or apple's ad team) spent a long time choosing people so that the ads would appear "fresh" - that doesn't mean this isn't a big corporate marketing campaign. we're not talking about a candid photo of some sweet young innocent - if you sign up as a model for a major marketing push like apple's, surely this kind of thing comes with the ride? i guess i'm worried apple have suckered people into thinking this was a movie made in someone's garage...

(and personally, i find the ellenfeiss.net site a heap more worrying)
posted by andrew cooke at 2:06 PM on September 1, 2002


Personally I love this meme and I don't see that anyone is getting rich off stoner Ellen or her image. Apple is getting quite a bit of free PR that I doubt they planned for.

This will fade as most trivial memes do. If Ellen has a problem with this she should make it known -- I'd like to believe that those perpetuating this would find new targets.

Is there a difference between her and the Olsen Twins or The Bush Twins for example?
posted by DBAPaul at 6:22 PM on September 1, 2002


I hope so.
posted by precocious at 6:45 PM on September 1, 2002


Should have been: Is there a difference between her and the Olsen Twins or The Bush Twins being targets for example?
posted by DBAPaul at 7:04 PM on September 1, 2002


well, the shirt's using a copyrighted image of apple's, and using the image of a person to support a mildly controverisal stance they may or may not support.

There's some difference between some random person that was in one ad and an actor that's spent their life in the public eye, no?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:17 PM on September 1, 2002


if you sign up as a model for a major marketing push like apple's, surely this kind of thing comes with the ride?

I can't imagine that anybody who agreed to appear in one of these commercials could have -- or should have -- expected somebody out there to:
(1) appropriate their image
(2) to sell merchandise
(3) advocating an illegal activity.

However, now that I have seen the light, I am looking forward to reeling in the profits with my DBAPaul "Burn Down Churches" and Andrew Cooke "Anal Child Rape" T-shirts, hats, and frisbees. Coming soon to a CafePress store near you.
posted by jjg at 9:03 PM on September 1, 2002


mathowie: but doesn't it also scale in her favor? Her image is being used on how many shirts? 100? I would bet serious money that they are not selling t-shirts in the thousands. There's always a fly-by-night operation ready to sell you the meme of the day. Wrong or right, soon enough we'll be saying "Ellen who?" and ten years from now hipsters will be buying these shirts (if the cafepress ones even last that long) for their kitsch value. Personally, I think that if you're going to become a spokesperson (regardless of the length of the gig) you can expect some lowered expectation of privacy. Not to mention the fair use right regarding parody.

I'm sensing a double standard here. When its 'one of our own' fair use gets tossed out the window, but when it comes to uber-evil megacorp its a whole different story. If e-sheep bought an ad here would you reject it based on their 'Rush eats everything' comic? Or how a nobody like R.U. Sirius is satirized in 'The guy I almost was?' From what I remember (i read that a long time ago) he was painted as a futurist fool or exposed as a ridiculous fraud.

I could see a case for libel here, but only because they are putting a political position she has never endorsed in her mouth. I'm not seeing much of a IP/Copyright problem.
posted by skallas at 9:14 PM on September 1, 2002


So which textad are we talking about here?
posted by crunchland at 9:56 PM on September 1, 2002


Never mind. I see it. Time to clean the old glasses, I guess.
posted by crunchland at 9:57 PM on September 1, 2002


However, now that I have seen the light, I am looking forward to reeling in the profits with my DBAPaul "Burn Down Churches" and Andrew Cooke "Anal Child Rape" T-shirts, hats, and frisbees. Coming soon to a CafePress store near you.

Now that would definitely help create some new legal precedent.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:30 PM on September 1, 2002


Who is Ellen Feiss, and why is that textad so controversial?

posted by mischief at 11:43 PM on September 1, 2002


Well put, mischief. Thanks for having the guts to ask in the name of us clueless twits. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:27 AM on September 2, 2002


Ellen Fiess appeared in a Switch ad for Apple, which we discussed here at Mefi. She has gained a celeb status, similar to the Dell Dude. Now someone has made a t-shirt with her picture with the tagline "Smoke Different", which was advertised as a textad.
posted by riffola at 12:43 AM on September 2, 2002


OK, that's who she is, but what is the controversy?

(I won't bother asking about the 'Dell Dude'.)


posted by mischief at 1:44 AM on September 2, 2002


Oh, nevermind, I see this is just another case of a grossly exaggerated molehill.


posted by mischief at 1:55 AM on September 2, 2002


Cheers, riffola!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:58 AM on September 2, 2002


I'm not a lawyer, so I couldn't tell you if fair use covers selling shirts with images and likenesses of someone, and I'm not entirely positive this use works as parody. That's what's at issue here.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:01 AM on September 2, 2002


riffola - you forgot the MeFite who registered EllenFeiss.com (scroll down to "Chris M".)

jjg - apples/oranges; as few people know "DBAPaul" I wouldn't care about "Burn Down Churches" which few would buy and you'd probably find it impossible to make any profit from, and even associating a real name like Andrew for a "Anal Child Rape" wouldn't generate income.

Yes, I bought a shirt for my stoner son in-law who seems to have a full wardrobe of marijuana T-shirt's. I know I am going to need to explain this meme when I give it to him.

[and on spell checking this comment the first correction for "EllenFeis.com" is "mellowness" - even spell check seems to be folowing the meme.]
posted by DBAPaul at 6:40 AM on September 2, 2002


"However, now that I have seen the light, I am looking forward to reeling in the profits with my DBAPaul "Burn Down Churches" and Andrew Cooke "Anal Child Rape" T-shirts, hats, and frisbees. Coming soon to a CafePress store near you."

print em and i'll buy em.
posted by jcterminal at 4:33 PM on September 2, 2002


me too.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:25 PM on September 2, 2002


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