'American Idol' winner Ruben Studdard sues maker of '205' jerseys
By Wade Paulsen, 08/01/2003
In a new development to a conflict that we first reported in June, the Associated Press reports that Ruben Studdard, the winner of Fox's second American Idol competition and a RIAA gold-record recipient, has filed a lawsuit against 205 Flava Inc., the manufacturers of the "205" jerseys that Ruben wore on Idol. In the lawsuit, Ruben asks for an injunction to stop the unauthorized use of his commercial image by the corporation, as well as a share of the profits generated from its prior unauthorized use.
As we reported after our own review of the debate in June, 205 Flava prominently featured pictures of Ruben on its Web site (which has now been taken down), even after Ruben had asked them to stop. According to Ruben's attorneys, the multitude of Web pictures are central to his charges against 205 Flava, since the company had agreed to stop using Ruben's picture for its own commercial gain. To determine appropriate damages, Ruben's attorneys are asking to review 205 Flava's books, so that they can calculate the amount of additional income generated by the use of Ruben's image, which they estimate to be around $2 million. Meanwhile, the owners of 205 Flava claim that they "have bent over backwards to help" Ruben, and that they "are really disappointed in his conduct at this point."
As discussed in our previous articles, we were sympathetic to 205 Flava when we first heard of the dispute, since they had no obligation to share the additional profits resulting from Ruben's association with their shirts, which they provided to Ruben for free. However, our sympathy faded when we saw the pervasive use of Ruben photos on their Web site, even though the show had been over for weeks. Now both sides will debate the right to privacy in its original incarnation (far from abortion and gay-rights lawsuits): the right to control your own publicity.