Actress in Viral Video Can’t Prevent Video From Being Made Into an Advertisement–Roberts v. Bliss

27 01 2017

Bliss produced a viral video called “10 Hours Walking in NYC as a Woman” featuring actress Shoshana Roberts. You probably saw this video when it came out; it has been viewed over 40M times. The video shows how random strangers constantly comment on Roberts’ looks as she walks around NYC. For reasons not specified in the opinion, Bliss didn’t get a written release from Roberts, and she claims he orally promised to pay her if the video succeeded (which it did, but still he didn’t pay). She also claims she made editorial contributions to the video, such as “actively assist[ing] Bliss in deciding how and where to walk, and how to film without the camera being noticed.”

Sadly, the video’s success induced Bliss to sell out; he licensed the video so TGI Fridays could make an ad. The ad uses the NYC settings and the mens’ catcalls, but digitally replaces Roberts with images of french fries and mozzarella sticks that appear to be the target of the mens’ catcalls. The court says: “Because of the superimposition of the giant appetizers, Roberts is not pictured or represented in the ad at all.” (The parties dispute whether Roberts is completely replaced; she claims that some versions showed her hands or feet, but the court says that wouldn’t change the analysis). Here is the 15 second version of the video (there was also a 30 second version that I haven’t yet found):


Case citation: Roberts v. Bliss, 2017 WL 354186 (SDNY Jan. 24, 2017). Roberts’ statement about the lawsuit.

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