I am not this person and I do not endorse this product.
November 29, 2012 4:39 PM   Subscribe

(UK law) A multinational confectioner has used my name to promote one of its products. Have my rights been infringed? Am I entitled to compensation?

My full name is not all that common yet it is still shared with a handful of others on the web. When I Google myself, the first page lists a couple of references to me, my namesakes and a couple of promo videos for a well known confection.

It appears that said multinational confectioner ran a marketing campaign some time ago that encouraged users to submit their name and a short script to a website which would then spit out a video of a performer reading out the submitted material to promote their product. There are thousands of these videos on YouTube. Two of these are titled with my full name and mention my full name within the dialogue of the videos. These videos appear on page one of the search results when you Google my name.

I am not the subject of either video, my namesake is, but it is still ambiguos to whom these videos are referring and it is this ambiguity that bothers me. I just don't like the idea of someone Googling my name and thinking I thought it a good idea to endorse the bloody product or participate in the campaign. The product's not a thing I would buy for myself or for my children.

So, I feel a little annoyed and won't let it lie. Whilst I could just ask them or YouTube to remove the videos, I would like to know if there are any possibilites of compensation. After all, it could be seen as if I have personally endorsed this product. Have my rights been infringed in any way? Am I in any way entitled to compensation?
posted by run"monty to Law & Government (13 answers total)
No and no.
posted by ook at 4:42 PM on November 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

No and no. It's not ambiguous, it's simply not about you.
posted by rhizome at 4:43 PM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure I follow, so to clarify: these promo videos were actually talk a about a real life person with your name, who just happens to not be you? Why would you think that would entitle you to get the videos removed?
posted by brainmouse at 4:43 PM on November 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

No and no and neither the company nor YouTube will be removing the videos. The person who made them is entitled to unfettered use of their name, which happens to also be your name.

It could be much worse: your name could be Boris Johnson.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:06 PM on November 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm pretty sure you can't do anything about this. (An academic colleague of mine shares her full name with a porn star, and has similar issues.)

But if it's a video promo, surely people can see that the video person is not you?
posted by lollusc at 5:21 PM on November 29, 2012

So, I feel a little annoyed and won't let it lie.

I am sorry that you are annoyed, but you need to let it lie because your rights have not been infringed and you are not entitled to compensation. The only way you might have had some grounds for relief is if you were independently famous and consumers might be confused about a celebrity endorsement. I imagine that you are not that famous, so you will just have to get over this indignity.

FWIW, I have an uncommon name but not so uncommon that some others don't have it. The first page for Google searches of my name brings up a very rude YouTube commenter and an annoying MySpace page. What am I going to do, moan and groan and tell these men not to use their names? I am curious to learn why you think you would have that right.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:51 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

So someone else with the same name has stuff on the internet which isn't about you, and you don't like that? I guess I don't quite understand what the issue is.
posted by markblasco at 6:58 PM on November 29, 2012

The reason for the somewhat exasperated tone of the responses here is that this is Internet 101. Other people have the same name as you have. They are not your "namesakes," unless they were actually, intentionally named after you. You share a name. None of you own it, unless one of you has trademarked it. I'm guessing you haven't trademarked it, or you wouldn't be asking this question. Your presuming to control how one of these other people use their own name is silly, as would be their presuming to control how you use yours.
posted by bricoleur at 7:08 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

You have zero rights here: although the name is similar, the company is not using YOUR name; ditto the YouTube videos. Neither the multinational corporation nor YouTube will pay any attention at all to you, as you have no standing to make such cease & desist demands.

You say your name is "not all that common", but to be honest, with several billion people currently on this planet? I wouldn't doubt if there are DOZENS of others with exactly the same name. (Example: I have an uncommon name, and furthermore my last name uses a VERY rare spelling --- but there are AT LEAST SIX people in the US alone with my exact combo of names and spellings. Does this mean I can tell the others to stop using this name? Not hardly.)
posted by easily confused at 7:40 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not your name. It's a name, shared by several people.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:37 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a kinda unusual name, and one of us same-named people is kind of a douche. Really nothing they ... I mean I can do about that.
posted by zippy at 9:15 PM on November 29, 2012

It might help to think about the opposite situation. If one of your dopplegangers wrote to you, or to your work / business, explaining that he was offended that you support position X and wanted you to take down all online mentions of the X Lovers Association and to pay him money, what would you do?
posted by Meatbomb at 9:39 PM on November 29, 2012

I suspect this this is something that John Smith and Robert Jones and Ian Campbell and Rahul Patel get frequently. Your argument wouldn't stand up in court unless - and I'm not a lawyer - you can demonstrate that:
(1) the mark/style - or in this case your name - is recognised by the public as distinctive of your goods or services or image rights; and
(2) a misrepresentation has been made leading or likely to lead the public to believe that its goods or services are either those of, or are endorsed by or associated with you; and
(3) that you have suffered or are likely to suffer damage as a result (i.e. goodwill).

I.e. they had gone out of their way to find "Brad Pitt" and were intentionally misleading people that the Brad Pitt endorsed the product. Even then, the law would come down to the legalities of intentionally misleading, rather than mere usage of the name being sufficient. Most cases with celebrities, I think, involve their image rights. There is some case law around use of name alone, which I've linked to below.

The relevant term in law is passing off. The relevant test case in UK law was in 2002, apparently.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:26 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

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