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OFF BEAT: Buzz Aldrin loses lawsuit over use of his image on trading cards


Astronauts successfully protect millions of dollars in equipment when they launch into space, but guarding their own images may be another matter.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin has lost a lawsuit in which he charged New York-based The Topps Co. Inc. with improperly using his image in a series of historic trading cards, according to reports.

U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson in Los Angeles ruled Sept. 27 that Topps' use of photographs from the Apollo 11 moon mission was protected as “free speech of an issue of public interest,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Aldrin had argued Topps' use of his image was “unprotected commercial speech.”

Mr. Aldrin is appealing the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The “Topps American Heritage” 2009 series of trading card includes hundreds of images of well-known American politicians, actors, athletes and events, including a photograph of Mr. Aldrin taken during his historic mission.

This is not the first such case. In 2010, astronaut Bruce McCandless II filed suit against New York-based Sony Music Entertainment and New York-based Getty Images (US) Inc., among others, charging they had misappropriated his image for commercial gain and had refused to compensate him for its use.

The defendants had used a picture of him taken while he traveled 320 feet from the space shuttle on the first untethered flight for the cover of female vocalist Dido's 2008 album, “Safe Trip Home.” The suit was subsequently amicably settled, according to reports.