Ford Motor. Co v. Midler
Ford Motor Company (defendant) advertised a model from its a Mercury automobile line with a television commercial. Ford used several songs of the seventies for the advertisements. Ford tried to the original recording artist of the song for the commercials, but in cases where they could not they hired a look alike. One the commercial used the song entitled “Do You Want To Dance?”. This song was originally performed by Bette Midler (plaintiff). Upon hearing the about the commercial, Bette Midler was told by numerous people that the commercial sounds exactly like her. Ford obtained the proper permission to use the song in the commercial and her name nor was her likeness was used. Midler filed a common law claim on basis that Ford used her distinct voice without her permission. DECISIONS BELOW:
The district court issued a summary judgment for the defendant. Midler appealed.
Is a voice a distinctive and personal feature of a person, which a person has the right to control from appropriation without his or her permission?
Yes. Summary judgment defeated.
For a person that is widely known their voice is part of their identity. A person voice distinguishes a person especially a singer, just as a face or a name. it is unlawful to use a widely known person’s voice to sell a product without their authorization.
I agree with the appellate court’s ruling in this regard. The district court’s dismissal of Ford’s complaint was proper under the circumstances.