Mexican Property Institute rules against Telemundo for exploiting Sandra Ávila Beltrán’s image in La Reina del Sur

IMPI fines Telemundo for unauthorized use of Sandra Ávila Beltrán's image in La Reina del Sur, as she seeks a multimillion-dollar payout and sets a precedent for narcoseries.

In a case that would have potential implications for products that exploit narcoculture, the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) ruled that Telemundo used without authorization the image of Sandra Ávila Beltrán to promote the series “La Reina del Sur.”

According to journalists Rafael Montes and Víctor Hugo Michel, in a report published this Monday by Milenio, the ruling cannot be appealed, and although the fine imposed by the IMPI on the U.S. television network is only 5 million pesos, the compensatory payment claimed by the Queen of the Pacific could reach millions of pesos.

Although “La Reina del Sur” is based on the book by Spanish writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Ávila Beltrán maintains that the successful narco series is inspired by her life, as before the premiere of its second season, Telemundo News used images of her arrest, which occurred in September 2007, to promote the series, which premiered in 2011 and now has three seasons.

Queen of the Pacific seeks multimillion-dollar payout

Thus, for the improper use of her image in the plot starring Kate del Castillo, the Queen of the Pacific initiated an administrative proceeding against the two entertainment consortiums, with which she seeks to obtain 40 percent of the profits obtained over the years, equivalent to approximately 150 million dollars.

In the IMC 150/2022 proceeding, retrieved by Milenio in August 2022, it can be read that Sandra Ávila Beltrán argues that both Telemundo and Netflix acted maliciously with the production and distribution of “La Reina del Sur” to discredit her.

Nine months ago, Ávila Beltrán’s legal defense stated in an interview that the proceedings against the consortiums occurred after years of the entertainment industry using drug trafficking stories to create audiovisual products.

"La Reina del Sur", protagonizada por la mexicana Kate del Castillo, es una de las narcoseries más exitosas de los últimos años. Foto: Instagram)
“La Reina del Sur,” starring Mexico’s Kate del Castillo, is one of the most successful narco series in recent years. Photo: Instagram)

Reporters explain this Monday that the resolution concerns a photograph in which the Queen of the Pacific appears “wearing a palm hat, with earrings, makeup and a strapless blouse.” Because the snapshot does not correspond to her arrest on February 28, 2007, in Mexico City, the IMPI ruled in favor of Avila Beltran regarding using her image.

The IMPI determined that “Telemundo Network Group has committed a commercial infringement as provided in section II of article 231 of the Federal Copyright Law, by having used the image of Sandra Ávila Beltrán, the applicant of the breach, without her authorization and for indirect profit “, according to the document obtained by Milenio.

A precedent against narco series

If the lawsuit is successful, they point out, the case could have repercussions in other series based on the life of characters from the world of drug trafficking in Mexico, such as Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán and the Arellano Félix brothers, among others.

“This ruling allows us to claim, before a civil authority, the number of royalties that could have been obtained by every one of the television stations that have exploited Sandra’s image,” said lawyer Isaac Razo, and explained that the next step is to determine the “moral damage” caused to the Queen of the Pacific.

In an interview with Milenio, the litigator estimated that the compensation could reach between 350 and 450 million dollars. Although the process is complicated, they are willing to negotiate and reach an agreement with Telemundo.

“In due time, if there is a firm and clear proposal, we would be willing to negotiate,” he commented and assured that Sandra Ávila Beltrán’s only intention is “to leave a precedent so that this type of thing does not continue to happen.”

Sandra Ávila Beltrán, la "Reina del Pacífico". Foto: Captura de Pantalla
Sandra Ávila Beltrán, the “Queen of the Pacific.” Photo: Screenshot