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Rebel Without a Twitter

Twitter faces suit
For trademark violation
Involving James Dean

Twitter has been hit with a lawsuit over an unauthorized Twitter account: @JamesDean.

CMG, an intellectual rights management firm, says that the Twitter account violates the dead actor’s trademark and publicity rights.

James Dean Inc. is also a party to the suit.

The @JamesDean Twitter account has been around since 2009, has more than 8,200 followers, and has sent more than 2,200 tweets.

The anonymous owner of the account posted on Twitter that he or she was approached by CMG in 2010 and asked to continue to manage the account with oversight (and the occasional tweet) by CMG.

James Dean was an actor and an icon of teenage angst who died in a car crash at the age of 24 in 1955. He is known for the films Rebel without a Cause, East of Eden, and Giant, and is the only actor to have receive two posthumous Oscar nominations.

CMG controls the intellectual property rights associated with dozens of dead celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe and John Belushi.

According to the complaint, “CMG enforces and protects the Dean intellectual property from illegal commercial use of the Dean intellectual property by third party unauthorized users.”

The plaintiffs contend that Twitter ignored multiple requests to take down the account.

The complaint includes causes of action such as trademark infringement, false endorsement, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment.

The complaint also includes a cause of action under Indiana’s broad publicity rights law, which is known as the “James Dean Law.”

Indiana’s right of publicity law went into effect in 1994, following lobbying by CMG (which is based in Indiana). It allows celebrities and their estates to protect their names, voices, photos, signatures, and even gestures and mannerisms for 100 years after death.

(The photo used above is in the public domain.)

The case is James Dean Inc. et al v. Twitter Inc., case number 1:14-cv-00183, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

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