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Tara Reid filed a misappropriation suit against SYFY Media Productions and Asylum Entertainment for using her likeness on Sharknado-branded beer bottles and slot machines without her permission. Reid appeared in all six Sharknado films as lead character, April Wexler. These films were broadcast on the SYFY television network, dating back to 2013. Reid is suing for $100 million, primarily in punitive damages, which she describes as "an amount sufficiently large to set a public example of deterrence."
Reid claims her contract with Asylum for the sixth Sharknado film included a provision barring the producers from using her likeness on specific products. According to Reid's attorneys, her contract for "The Last Sharknado: It's About Time," specified that "in no event shall [Reid's] likeness be used for any merchandising in association with alcohol, tobacco, gambling, hygiene, or sexual products without [Reid's] prior written approval." Asylum allegedly violated this agreement by signing deals with a U.K. beer manufacturer Northern Monk Brewing Co. to produce Sharknado beer, and another deal with an unnamed company to put Sharknado characters on slot machines and video gambling devices. The suit claims that Reid "did not and would not endorse such products."
Misappropriation of likeness is a state cause of action, and many legal scholars believe this means that rulings can be more inconsistent than what is seen in federal copyright or trademark cases. To prevail, Reid will have to prove that the defendant used her protected attributes for an exploitative purposes without her consent. It seems that many of these are provable, since they clearly used her likeness, for the purpose of making money, and she surely didn't consent. However, the defense could claim that the depiction doesn't truly look like Reid, and therefore is protected under the First Amendment, because the likeness has been transformed enough to serve some creative purpose.
Stay tuned to find out what happens on the next installment of Sharknado, The Lawsuit!
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.