By on May 27, 2010

Albert Einstein may have once said that:

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new

But the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which owns the rights to Einstein’s likeness, had this to say about this GMC ad which appeared in People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue:

The tattooed, shirtless image of Dr. Einstein with his underpants on display is not consummate with and causes injury to (the university’s) carefully guarded rights in the image and likeness of the famous scientist, political activist, and humanitarian

According to the Detroit News, the University is suing GM “more than $75,000” for the Leo Burnett-produced ad. GM spokesfolks insist the company purchased the right to use the Einstein image from a “reputable firm.”

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16 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: Way To Go, Einstein Edition...”

  • avatar

    That is beyond stupid, GM!

  • avatar
    Samuel L. Bronkowitz

    GM and the ad agency must have missed the memo: six-pack abs are so last century when it comes to advertising…

  • avatar

    The drawing is so incredibly ugly Hebrew University should nail GM for millions.

    Besides, Einstein’s great grandson Ted already did an Oldsmobile ad.

  • avatar

    It’s actually a memorable print add from GM that made me laugh. When’s the last time most of us could say that?

  • avatar


  • avatar

    The right of publicity for deceased celebrities, although recognized by a number of states, is a load of crap. The right of publicity is an outgrowth of the right of privacy, which traditionally ended at death. When it is extended to deceased celebrity it amounts to a vague common law copyright that conflicts with Article 1 Section 8 of the constitution which gives Congress the power to grant exclusive rights to authors and inventors for “limited time”.

    The licensing industry has consistently avoided a showdown with the US Supreme Court over the legality of the right of publicity. They’re afraid they’ll lose.

  • avatar
    The Walking Eye

    That was a GM ad? I had no idea, I’d just seen that picture without any reference to GM. Being a huge nerd and heavily involved with Student Pugwash (a social responsibility in science group that takes it’s name from the organization started by Einstein and Russell in the 1950s as a result of the atomic bomb development) I love this. Kudos to GM and we need more of this so we don’t continue our march towards Idiocracy.

  • avatar

    Finally — The answer to the long-sought Einsteinian Mystery: “Boxers or Briefs?”

    • 0 avatar

      So… which do you think it is? Einstein strikes me as a boxer guy, though not in a sexy hair-product commercial kind of way… More like senile-old-man-stumbling-around-his-living-room-cum-laboratory-in-his boxers-and-wife-beater-t-shirt-contemplating-the-meaning-of-life kind of way.

      Hmmm… Maybe if we apply Einstein’s Unified Field Theory to this ad his pants would disappear like the USS Eldridge and then we’d have the REAL answer! :)

  • avatar

    You mean they are suing American taxpayes for 75k.

    The University must need a new bomb shelter or something.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s easy to joke about it, and I like black humor as much as the next guy, but the Hebrew University was actually the target of a 2002 bombing by Hamas. The cafeteria on the Hebrew U’s Mount Scopus campus was attacked and 9 people were killed and about 100 injured. The bomb, packed with nails and other shrapnel for maximum damage to people, was in a bag left on a table in the center of the cafeteria during lunchtime.

      The school already builds bomb shelters in just about all its buildings. Israelis have been building bomb shelters since 1948 and they’re pretty good at civil defense.

      The $75,000 is a token amount, just enough to get GM’s attention. Corbis manages the Einstein image legacy for the Hebrew U. Most likely, this lawsuit was driven by Corbis more than the university. In my experience, companies that manage intellectual property for other institutions (like the Collegiate Licensing Corp.) tend to be a bit more heavy handed than the actual owners of that IP.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    Explain to me how you can own the likeness of a dead person…

    • 0 avatar

      Even if you dispute the concept of a deceased person’s publicity rights going to their heirs after death, their are still intellectual property rights to the actual copyrighted images.

      I agree that publicity rights are controversial and the law in the US has been influenced by the power of the entertainment industry, but the fact remains that the Hebrew U currently owns the rights to Einstein’s image.

      One thing that has to be considered is that IP not defended is lost to the public domain. The owner of IP has to diligently defend that property through cease and desist letters and lawsuits if necessary just to show the courts that it protects its property. In a famous case, Formica Corp. lost their trademark to the word “formica” because they were too selective about who they went after for trademark violations.

  • avatar

    I guess I’ll have to retain an agent and start shopping my likeness around. After all, I’m not rich enough to just donate it to some school I went to….

  • avatar

    That’s not Einstein, it’s Sam Elliot. LOL

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