When Albert Einstein died he bequeathed his letters and rights to his image to Hebrew University in Jerusalem. And now, 55 years later, the university is suing General Motors for publishing a bodacious, yet weirdly flattering, image of the scientist in last fall’s People magazine “Sexiest Man Alive” issue.
The ad, which was part of a four-page GM spread, ran a picture under the headline, “Ideas are Sexy Too,” with a picture of half naked Einstein, standing slouched and shirtless with his thumbs in his jeans, looks sultrily off the page. Artistically rendered with washboard abs, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist also has a badass “e=mc2” tattoo on his left bicep. Forget People, buff Einstein would light up the imagination of any Jewish grandmother.
Unsurprisingly, Hebrew University is none too pleased. While a GM spokesperson claimed the rights to Einstein’s image were purchased legally, the university disagrees and, on top of a $75,000 penalty, the University asked in its lawsuit that GM be barred from using the father of general relativity theory in future advertisements.
“The tattooed, shirtless image of Dr. Einstein with his underpants on display is not consummate with and causes injury to HUJ’s carefully guarded rights in the image and likeness of the famous scientist, political activist, and humanitarian,” Hebrew University lawyer Antoinette Waller wrote in the lawsuit.
The university currently grants Einstein image reproduction rights to a slew of companies, including carmakers Saab and Hyundai. Ripped physique or not, Einstein has been a valuable commodity for Hebrew University. Last year, Forbes magazine ranked Einstein ninth in a list of top-grossing dead celebrities, with an annual intake of $10 million.