Saturday, December 1, 2012

Midler v. Ford Motor Company case brief

Midler v. Ford Motor Company
Property Law Case Brief

Subject: Using a likeness of a person's voice.

Case Overview:
Midler (P) sued Ford Motor Company (D) for using a likeness of her voice without permission.

Case Facts:

-Ford Motor Company (“Ford”) had proposed to hire Midler to sing for a commercial, but Midler refused.
-Ford, which held a license to use the intended song itself, then hired a different singer to imitate Midler’s voice.
-The result was so convincing as to be virtually indistinguishable from Midler’s own singing.
-The commercial made no explicit references to Midler; only the likeness of her voice was used.

May a famous singer recover from a party that uses a likeness of her voice without permission?


Yes, Such a singer may recover.


It is important to realize that this case does not fall under the scope of copyright or conventional restrictions on the use of one’s identity. Copyright law offers no protection against imitations of a particular singer’s rendition of a song. Likewise, Midler cannot claim that Ford used her identity improperly since the commercial does not make use of her name, voice, signature, or other identifying features. Nonetheless, Midler should recover for Ford’s unauthorized use of a likeness of her voice. A voice, just like a face, is an identifying feature protected by the law. Ford itself admitted that payment would be appropriate when it first sought to hire Midler and, when efforts failed, to replace her with a sound-alike.

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