No more double bills with Britney

Her bald, scowling visage no longer stares down at drivers.

Published June 19, 2007

TAMPA - Her head bald, her mouth set in a scowl, Britney Spears stared out from the interstate billboard.

Next to her, radio personality Todd Schnitt, looked on, lips parted in a goofy grin.

The top of the billboard read "Total Nut Jobs." Other versions of the billboard sported the words "Shock Therapy" and "Certifiable."

Apparently, local commuters aren't the only ones who took notice of the billboards, advertisements for 93.3 FM's The MJ Morning Show.

The billboards are no longer posted in Tampa.

"Clear Channel has removed the billboards, and I'm not happy with that," said Schnitt, who hosts The MJ Morning Show.

Clear Channel did not return calls to its local and national offices.

In a letter dated June 14, Spears' attorney demanded Clear Channel take down the billboards, which appeared in Clearwater, Tampa and Jacksonville.

The letter, which was obtained by the Web site the Smoking Gun, accuses Clear Channel of misrepresenting the billboards and using Spears' image without authorization.

"It was outrageous in the extreme that Clear Channel created and displayed the billboards in the first place," according to the letter, signed by Lynda B. Goldman.

Goldman, a Los Angeles attorney with the firm Lavely & Singer, did not return calls for comment.

First Amendment lawyer Luke Lirot said he saw the billboards and believed that Spears would have difficulty winning any legal case in the matter.

"Obviously, the use of her image is a satire of her as a public figure," he said.

The radio station was poking fun at a public person, speech that is allowed and protected, Lirot said.

C. Edwin Baker, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and First Amendment expert, disagreed.

The key point is that this billboard was used for advertising, for a commercial, not free speech or journalistic purpose, he said.

"For news purposes, it's well established that people don't have the right to control the use of their image," Baker said. "But when it's being used for a commercial purpose, most states give the person whose image it is some degree of rights in that image so that someone else can't use it."

For example, a robber cannot control it if his image is splayed on the front page of a newspaper. But it's a different story is a person's image is used for advertising.

Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, took a similar view.

"Here they're criticizing her, they're satirizing her," he said. "At the very least Britney Spears has a strong case."

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 226-3373 or vansickle@sptimes.com.