The “Elly May” Barbie doll lawsuit

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the possibility of a lawsuit by Miley Cyrus against the makers of the “Finally Mylie” sex doll.  Miley apparently decided against filing a lawsuit, but a different celebrity has filed a lawsuit over a doll, although this one of a much tamer variety.

Donna Douglas, who played “Elly May Clampett” on the ’60’s TV show The Beverly Hillbillies (still one of the great all time TV theme songs) filed a lawsuit against Mattel for releasing the “Barbie Collector Beverly Hillbillies Ellie May Doll” without getting her permission.  Since the character of “Elly May Clampett” is presumably owned by CBS, the doll itself would probably not justify a lawsuit.  But Mattel put a photograph of Ms. Douglas on the side of the box (you can see it here).  That is definitely a no-no, and someone should have known better.  Now it is possible that Ms. Douglas gave CBS a license to use her photograph on Beverly Hillbillies merchandise when she was cast in the role. But it seems unlikely that such a license would continue indefinitely.  If there is no license, then I believe that Ms. Douglas would have a very solid case against Mattel.  Because the Right of Publicity in Louisiana (where the lawsuit was filed) is derived from the Common Law (as opposed to a statute such as California Civil Code §3344) I could not venture a guess as to the damages she would be entitled to.  But unless Ms. Douglas gets too greedy, I would predict that Mattel will settle this case fairly quickly.

If you want to read the complaint, you can do so here. 

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