Tiny astronaut sues big musician

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Tiny astronaut sues big musician

Tue Oct 05, 2010 @ 08:02AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Look closely at Dido's album cover for "Safe Trip Home." Spot the lawsuit?


Bruce McCandless, the NASA astronaut pictured small and floating in space above the Earth, is now suing Dido, Sony Music, Arista Records and Getty Images for using his picture.

The ex-spaceman is claiming the defendants took his "persona" for commercial use. Dido's "Safe Trip Home" was one of the top 50 selling albums of 2008.

Does size matter?

McCandless says he's identifiable because he was the "first person to accomplish un-tethered free flight using the Manned Maneuvering Unit, a nitrogen jet propelled backpack." The picture of McCandless going "farther away from the confines and safety of his ship than any previous astronaut has ever been" was taken in 1984 by a fellow astronaut. The photo was named by Life.com as one of the "21 Greatest-Ever Space photos." Sony acquired the image for use on the album but allegedly didn't clear the right to use the persona of McCandless.

In the complaint filed in federal court in California last week, McCandless says he's endorsed commercial products before, so the misappropriation of his right of publicity damaged and deprived him of endorsement value. 

He's not the first person pictured on an album cover to sue. Earlier this year, a woman sued the band Vampire Weekend over a nearly 30-year-old photo. But never before has a publicity claim so large rested on the presentation of mankind so small.

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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 Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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