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Project Runway Fan Favorites

Project Runway fan April Winchell received a copy of Entertainment Weekly featuring Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum...

... and was inspired to recreate them in the form of stuffed dolls, put them for sale on eBay, and offer to donate a portion of the proceeds to charity.  As April says, "It's uncanny, isn't it? Well, I mean besides the fact that Heidi Klum has two eyes in real life, and Tim Gunn's eyes aren't on one side of his head like a flounder. I mean overlooking all of that, it's pretty dead on, right? Not only that, but the Heidi doll is pregnant. And barefoot. Now how much would you pay?" 

Are the "Winchies" amusing?  Sure. 

Legal?  Well, as long as neither Tim nor Heidi objects.  When it comes to "rights of publicity," the quasi-intellectual property rights of a celebrity to control the economic exploitation of his or her own image, state laws are all over the map.  In one well-known and frequently debated case, Samsung's use of a robot in a blonde wig and evening gown to evoke Wheel of Fortune's Vanna White was considered an infringement.  White v. Samsung Electronics America, Inc., 989 F.2d 1512 (9th Cir. 1993).  Of course, Samsung in that case was using the "Vanna" character to sell consumer electronics, whereas April is arguably parodying the Project Runway folks and the celebrity hype of the magazine.  And are Tim and Heidi likely to object?  One would hope not -- they'd lose far more in terms of reputation by antagonizing fans than they could hope to gain by challenging their felt and glue avatars. 

As for Entertainment Weekly or Project Runway, they could advance copyright and trademark claims regarding the eBay listing -- but their lawyers, too, probably have better ways to spend their billable hours.  So my guess would be that our google-eyed friends are safe for now.

Hat tip to Blogging Project Runway.

P.S.  For an authorized -- and far more flattering -- toy likeness of Tim Gunn, check out his bobbleheads, now adorning stylish desks everywhere.