Posted by Mr. Q at 6:00 AM Monday, April 22, 2013
Dear Rich: I have set up an upmarket ladies hair salon called Bruno's Kuafor, and used Sacha Baron Cohen's satirical character Bruno as the inspiration. We actually use one striking image of the character all over our marketing literature. The logo is our own. The whole theme works brilliantly, and I did have it in mind to contact him to help the promotion, or even give him some financial share or incentive. But we are in Istanbul, so we are a long way away, and we didn't get round to it. And now a friend wants to open a branch in New York. What can I get away with, what should I do, is this a good time to contact Mr. Cohen or his agent to license the image of his dead character, or indeed try and get Mr Cohen involved more directly? We love the image, it is one that was used widely to promote the film Bruno, we just lifted it off the internet. We're not sure about Turkish law, but under U.S. law, you will need permission from the company that owns the rights to the Bruno character, as well as from Sacha Baron Cohen, whose image is used to promote your salon. That's because the use of the character and the actor's image triggers violations of copyright law (using images from the film), trademark law (the character may have acquired trademark status), and the right of publicity (the right of a person to control the use of his or her image for commercial purposes). Obviously, the more successful you become, the more likely you will need permission ... which is a bit of a Catch 22 because by seeking permission, you're alerting the company as to your use. If you do decide to seek permission, we believe the place to start would be Four By Two Films, the production company owned by Cohen and responsible for his movies and TV shows.