On February 8, 2017, Audrey Hepburn’s eldest son, Sean Ferrer, was sued by the charity he helped establish to continue his mother’s support of children’s welfare causes. In 1993, Ferrer and his half-brother Luca Dotti created Hollywood for Children in honor of their mother’s memory. The nonprofit raised money for children’s charities around the world. To raise money, they used Hepburn’s likeness and exhibiting memorabilia from her estate. In 1998, they changed the name of the charity to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund. Ferrer and Dotti equally own Hepburn’s intellectual property and, according to the complaint, they agreed that either of them had “unrestricted unilateral authority” to allow third parties to use it for limited purposes.
The lawsuit alleges that her son, Sean Ferrer, is interfering with the charity’s ability to use her name and likeness for fundraising. In 2013, Ferrer sent a notice to the Fund terminating its right to use Hepburn’s IP for fundraising. Attorney Steven E. Young states in the complaint, “Ferrer seeks to entirely control, limit and prohibit the Fund from using the Hepburn IP unless it is willing to pay a significant portion of the fundraising proceeds to a charity of Ferrer’s choice, or to simply preclude the Fund from utilizing the Hepburn IP altogether”. This termination causes a big problem since the exhibitions are the primary source of money for the charity.
The fund wants the court to give the charity unlimited rights to use the Hepburn IP for fundraising without Ferrer’s permission. If the court does not interfere, Ferrer’s actions will “irreparably damage the sterling reputation of the late Audrey Hepburn”. The fund is suing Ferrer for intentional interference with contractual relationships and seeks damages and an injunction to keep Ferrer from registering any domain names based on Hepburn’s IP. Ferrer makes a speech at the Oscars in 1993 on his mother’s behalf after she won the Humanitarian Award. Ferrer says, “she believed every child has the right to health, to hope, to tenderness and to life. On her behalf, I dedicate this to the children of the world.”