Darlene Love Sues Google for Using Her Voice
January 20, 2016
Darlene Love, an “icon of pop music’s golden age,” sued Google today for using her voice in advertising for mobile phones. Love is ranked 84 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers of all-time list, and is best known for He’s A Rebel, Alone on Christmas, and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). She is also known for singing another holiday classic, It’s a Marshmallow World. Google allegedly copied her performance of that song in its commercial.
The complaint alleges that Google hired an advertising agency that does not contract with AFTRA’s collective bargaining agreement to deny Love her union protections for the use of her voice in the commercial. The complaint is short on facts and claims, but long on rhetoric. The complaint states that “[a]n honest company, doing business in good faith, would not attempt to deprive Love of the benefits of the union protection” by hiring a “scab shop.” She claims that Google “turned her into an involuntary pitchman for products of dubious quality” and “falsely implied to the public that Love had endorsed Google’s products.” She also says that Google took “deliberate measures to evade contacting her or obtaining her permission.” The Complaint does not explain what those measures were other than not actually contacting her. The Complaint only makes a claim for common law right of publicity, but surprisingly not statutory claims or a false endorsement claim. It seems likely that she agreed to the underlying recording and has no rights over it, but she may still have a right of publicity or false endorsement claim. Her underlying recording contract, however, may have waived such rights. It’s too early to tell whether she has a viable claim, but given the heated rhetoric odds are she’s hoping to shame Google into paying her for the use, even if it doesn’t have to do so.
The offending commercial can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WFmnN9lPd4