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How celebrities can hurt your website

If this were a movie prequel, it would be called “Ocean’s 2.”
Co-stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts are suing companies that have been using their photos without permission online in ads to promote the companies’ business.
When it comes to actors, singers, and other celebrities (even “reality” show “stars”), you can land in hot water by using their photos to promote your business unless you’ve got written permission to do so.
Heck, you can’t even imply endorsement. For example, The Oprah reportedly has packs of lawyers hunting down website owners who claim she’s endorsed their products.
As explained in my book, “How to Protect Your Business Website Without a Lawyer” (, intellectual property laws do apply online despite the claims of some fools that photos you find by searching Google are free for the taking.
Even small business website owners screw this one up. For example, there’s a local shop that sends out a daily special to its email list that contains a celebrity birthday of the day. Treading into dangerous territory there because the business isn’t making it clear the celebrities are not endorsing the business. Where the emails cross the line is the business also includes a photo of each celebrity that the company has no right to use.
If you need a celebrity for promoting your business online, there are plenty of C-list actors who are available for chump change. Most people recognize who they are but they haven’t been A-list in years. Even so, whatever deal you work out with them needs to be in writing.

Mike Young, Esq.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994 and is an angel investor in startups. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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