Can ABC Use Isaiah Washington's Image on 'Grey's Anatomy'?

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Can ABC Use Isaiah Washington's Image on 'Grey's Anatomy'?

Thu May 15, 2008 @ 05:34PM PST

Posted by Eriq Gardner

Washingtonisaiah Isaiah Washington and his lawyer, Peter Nelson, have raised an interesting legal question with the complaint filed with SAG over ABC's use of Washington's image on a recent episode of "Grey's Anatomy."

The actor played Dr. Preston Burke and left the show in 2007 amid controversy about an off-air comment about a castmate. He now takes issue with the show's use of his photograph in the May 9 episode, where a newspaper clipping revealed that Dr. Burke had won a prestigious surgeon's award, thus explaining to viewers what happened to the departed character.

"They have the rights of the character to advance the story, but not the image," says Nelson. The actor is looking for a "financial settlement."

We're wondering what sort of reproduction of Washington's image was used. The show not only owns rights to the character but also rights to past episodes, so let's hope (for ABC's sake) they used a screen shot. We're guessing they didn't.

Interestingly, the issue of image rights comes as actors and studios are in dispute over compensation for online clips. If there's one big difference between SAG and the other guilds that signed new agreements earlier in the year, it's image.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to

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