Skip to main content

Open Season on Einstein's image?

A California Federal judge has ruled that General Motors didn't violate copyright rules  by using Einstein's image in an advertisement.

Einstein as depicted in a 2009 GMC Terrain ad.
In keeping with the wishes in Einstein's will, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem owned rights to nearly all of his images. The University collected fees for the use of pictures in ads and other materials, and denied permission in cases the University deemed inappropriate.

The image here is from an ad that General Motors placed in People Magazine in 2009. Unsurprisingly, the Hebrew University took GM to court in 2010 seeking compensation for the unauthorized, and highly modified, picture.

In a ruling released today, the judge in the case determined that the rights to Einstein's image expired in 2010, fifty-five years after his death in New Jersey back in 1955, and that the lawsuit was initiated too late for the University to recoup any damages. Incidentally, had Einstein passed away in California, the copyright would still stand because the state allows heirs to maintain their rights up to seventy years after death.

The more significant point is that now, at least according to California courts, anyone can use Einstein's face in any way they like. This is in stark contrast to previous years when the Hebrew University was able to rigorously enforce their copyrights on a vast array of things related to Einstein.

It seems likely that we will see lots more of Einstein in ads very soon (although it's hard to imagine how you could see more of him than in the picture shown here without running up against a few decency laws.)

Comments

Popular Posts

How 4,000 Physicists Gave a Vegas Casino its Worst Week Ever

What happens when several thousand distinguished physicists, researchers, and students descend on the nation’s gambling capital for a conference? The answer is "a bad week for the casino"—but you'd never guess why.

Ask a Physicist: Phone Flash Sharpie Shock!

Lexie and Xavier, from Orlando, FL want to know:
"What's going on in this video? Our science teacher claims that the pain comes from a small electrical shock, but we believe that this is due to the absorption of light. Please help us resolve this dispute!"

The Science of Ice Cream: Part One

Even though it's been a warm couple of months already, it's officially summer. A delicious, science-filled way to beat the heat? Making homemade ice cream.

Over at Physics@Home there's an easy recipe for homemade ice cream. But what kind of milk should you use to make ice cream? And do you really need to chill the ice cream base before making it? Why do ice cream recipes always call for salt on ice?