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October 23, 2012 1:39 pm

Hebrew University Loses Einstein Image Rights in GM Lawsuit

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Albert Einstein.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has lost the right for exclusive and commercial use of an Albert Einstein image.

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled against the university and in favor of General Motors LLC in the copyright infringement lawsuit. The case involved a GM advertisement for a 2010 Terrain Vehicle which featured Einstein’s face attached to a ripped, shirtless torso with an e=mc2 tattoo on his shoulder. The ad featured the tagline “Ideas are sexy too.”

Hebrew U claimed infringement based on the fact that it has the right of publicity as the beneficiary of Einstein’s estate, as written in 1982 in the terms of Einstein’s will. However, the court ruled that this right expired in 2005, which marked 50 years since Einstein’s death. The maximum duration of 50 years “appropriately reflects the balance between meaningful enforcement… and the public’s interest in free expression,” the court said in a statement, according to Globes.

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