“She never endorsed a thing”: The Julia Child Foundation is suing Airbnb for use of her likeness

Julia Child.
Julia Child.
Image: AP Photo
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Julia Child was never much for publicity.

“Though uniquely situated to do so, she never endorsed a thing,” celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain said in August 2012, on what would have been Child’s 100th birthday. “Not a pot, not a pan, not a chain of restaurants, not a spice blend, apron, or boil-in-the-bag dinner.”

And, according to the Julia Child Foundation, she most certainly didn’t endorse Airbnb.

The foundation, which has handled Child’s publicity rights since her death in 2004, is suing Airbnb for a free giveaway promotion it ran this spring that allegedly used Child’s name and likeness without permission. In fact, according to the complaint filed in California state superior court, the home-sharing site was explicitly told not to evoke Julia Child in its marketing materials by the foundation.

“Notwithstanding expressly being denied permission to do so, Airbnb … engaged in a broad marketing and promotional campaign … to win a free night at the ‘Former Julia Child Home,'” the complaint states.

Airbnb said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The company’s campaign, according to the complaint, included posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, a page on Airbnb’s website, and an email blast that advertised winning a free night at the “former home of Julia Child in Provence, France.”

While the current version of that listing doesn’t include any mentions of Child by name, it does recap the event by saying that in May, “two foodie winners walked in the footsteps of a culinary legend, cooked in her famous kitchen, and lived like a chef in Provence.” The complaint also alleges that in its promotional email, Airbnb told guests to imagine ”walking the halls of Julia Child’s former home” and “combing over the knick knacks in her kitchen exactly as she left them.”

Based on the photo still attached to the listing, that wasn’t an understatement—hardly a pot is out of place.

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Image: AP Photo, Airbnb