It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that you can’t simply use a celebrity’s image without authorization – even if that superstar was, indeed, a scientist who has been dead for more than half a century.The university must regret the lawsuit now, because it lost the case and all publicity rights:
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has filed suit against General Motors accusing the automaker of making fraudulent use of the image of Albert Einstein. ...
Though Einstein was not known as a particularly material man, his likeness has proved a gold mine for the school, which reportedly earned $10 million on the rights to the likeness of the author of the theory of relativity, last year.
According to Forbes magazine, Einstein ranks ninth on the list of the Top 10 dead celebrities when it comes to annual earnings, just behind Dr. Seuss, at $15 million, but ahead of widely-publisher author Michael Crichton, at $9 million.
But if it doesn’t die with the person, how long does it last? Some states define this by statute, but New Jersey has no such statute; the right of publicity in New Jersey is a common-law, judge-made right (as it originally was in most states). ...So Einstein is now in the public domain. So my use of his name and image on the cover of my book is safe.
Life plus 50 years, the court said, so GM wins (since Einstein died in 1955, and the ad ran in 2009).