• Ronald A. Flate

Taster’s Choice Model Wins Big

A two-hour photo shoot paying $250 has turned into a jury verdict of over $15 million for the model, but it took almost 20 years and some good luck for it to happen. Russell had his photo taken for use on labels by a major coffee maker. He did not think much more about it until many years later, when he saw the photo of himself savoring a cup of coffee.

According to the modeling agreement, which Russell had kept in his records, he was supposed to be paid additional sums if the photo was actually used in marketing. The company had never paid more money to Russell, even though his photo had ended up on countless jars of coffee around the world for a six-year period. Nor did the company get his permission for the use of his image.

The jury award was based not just on the company’s obligations under the agreement, but also on a percentage of the profits derived from the use of the image. Russell was able to show that his face, appearing as it did in all kinds of advertising, not just the jars of coffee, helped to sell a lot of coffee. As a result, the company’s misappropriation of his image carried a very big price tag.

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