It is probably safe to assume that Channel 45 obtained permission to use Jennifer Aniston’s likeness and exploit her right of publicity in promoting viewership of syndicated Friends television programs. That’s a deal where everyone appears to win, Channel 45, viewers, advertisers, Aniston, and the other Friends cast members who share in the syndication royalties along with Ms. Aniston.

Last August, I noted the irony of how one of the Friends, Ms. Aniston, appears to have been singled out from her co-star friends, despite their history of solidarity as a group, to serve as the primary marketing face on billboards in promoting viewership of Friends re-runs on television. Then, this month, the above revised billboard caught my attention since it is otherwise identical to prior Aniston billboards, with one key difference. For the past several weeks, Aniston billboards in the Twin Cities have not only promoted Friends, but they have leveraged other non-Friends programming on Channel 45 too.

So, given how often well-intending companies can misapprehend the scope of rights they have been licensed, and given how some are more inclined to ask for forgiveness than advance permission, at times, what I’m not inclined to assume is that Channel 45 obtained an advance license to expand the use of Ms. Aniston’s likeness and intellectual property for the additional purpose of promoting viewership of the Minnesota State High School Tournaments on Channel 45.

Since a good portion of the above billboard promotes more than viewership of Friends re-runs, I’m left wondering about the scope of Channel 45’s apparent license to use Ms. Aniston’s likeness.

Recognizing how carefully celebrities control the use of their likenesses, do you think Channel 45’s permission covered any use of Ms. Aniston’s likeness beyond promotion of Friends re-runs?

Do you agree, additional permission is required to run the above billboard?

If not, where would you draw the line?

  • I suspect that Warner Bros. contract with Ms. Aniston most likely covered the use of her likeness for this purpose, but I do think that she might have grounds for a little complaining, unless she likes the free publicity, which wouldn’t surprise me at all.