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Marketing on Social Media May Be in Jeopardy Due to Katherine Heigl's Lawsuit

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Heigl’s $6 million lawsuit may change the face of social media after the New York drug store chain, Duane Reade posted an image of Katherine Heigl on their Twitter account with intentions of promoting the drug store name. Heigl plans on suing the company, a subsidiary of Walgreen, with plans on donating the money to her own charity, The Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, created in memory of her brother Jason, who died in a car crash when he was a teen.

On March 18, a tweet was sent out by Duane Reade on their Twitter account with an image of Katherine Heigl holding a Duane Reade shopping bag. Originally, the image was posted on the Just Jared celebrity website. Duane Reade pulled the image from the celebrity site, and posted the image on both Twitter and on Facebook stating that Heigl loved shopping at Duane Reade. Heigl’s lawyers claim the image improperly exploits the actress for commercial advertising without approval or a signed endorsement contract, and knowingly changed the content of the original image to promote the company.

The outcome of Heigl’s $6 million lawsuit could change how businesses use social media for advertising and marketing purposes and use celebrities likeness in the future. Duane Reade may argue that their First Amendment rights are being violated an attempt to protect their use of social media in the future. Twitter and Facebook have been a major resource for companies to promote and advertise their business by posting and building their follower base. The popular social media platforms have changed the face of advertising for big and small companies. Social Media has been a very cost-effective forum and relies on the power of the “share” and “retweet” to get the message out for their brand. Whether it falls under First Amendment rights will rely on the decision of a judge.

Twitter is still a relatively new phenomenon, and the uses are ever-changing. No strict guidelines are fully enforced when it comes to business and celebrity endorsement, especially when there is no contract between the two parties. Heigl just happened to be shopping at the time the picture was taken by paparazzi and when Duane Reade posted the image on the company’s Twitter page Heigl felt exploited and sought out to sue the company for $6 million.

The interpretation of the tweet will also be a big factor in the case. If Duane Reade’s followers were led to believe that Katherine Heigl was a spokesperson for the company than the image could be seen as misleading. This violates the New York civil rights statutes protecting use of anyone’s likenesses for the purpose of trade.

Katherine Heigl’s lawsuit suing Duane Reade for $6 million may not change social media, but instead backfire on the star. In the past few year’s Heigl has been getting bad press for her reputation as a “hard to work with” actress. This has led to Heigl struggling to land A-list acting jobs and could be fuel for Duane Reade’s defense. Duane Reade could use her faltering career as her reason for suing for such a large amount and could probe into her work and personal life.

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