The family of legendary Cuban guerrilla Che Guevara are reported to be planning legal action against companies they believe are exploiting his iconic image.

Che Guevara was captured and killed by government troops in Bolivia in 1967 after which he was hailed a martyr in Cuba and his image became a symbol for revolt worldwide.

The famous picture of Che, taken on 5 March 1960, has been used on T-shirts, posters and other merchandise for more than three decades.

According to a report by news agency Reuters, Che?s Cuban widow Aleida March wants to ?maintain the ethics of Guevara?s legacy? by containing ?uncontrolled use? of the image. She told Reuters: ?We have a plan to deal with the misuse.?

However, it is unclear on what grounds the family plan to take action ? or whether they even have a case – because copyright is understood to reside with the estate of the late Alberto Korda, the Cuban photographer who captured the image of the Argentinian-born rebel with a Leica M2 camera and 90mm lens.

In 2000 Korda (pictured holding the famed photograph) won a landmark battle to assert his copyright over the image at the High Court in London. He won an undisclosed sum in an out-of-court settlement after the image was used without his permission in a British advert for Smirnoff vodka.

Korda ? real name Alberto Diaz Gutierrez – had been in dispute with London advertising agency Lowe Lintas and picture agency Rex Features which supplied the picture for the advert. He had accused the ad company of trivialising the historical significance of the photo by overprinting it with a hammer and sickle motif, in which the sickle was depicted as a chilli pepper. Korda felt that Che, who did not drink, should not be associated with vodka and that the advert was a slur on his name.

British lawyer Razi Mireskandari who filed the successful copyright case for Korda in 2000 believes any future legal action by the family will be difficult because Korda?s estate holds the copyright.

Speaking to AP yesterday Mireskandari said that, as Che?s family don?t own the photo, the only possible case they would have is through enforcement of some form ?endorsement rights? over the picture. They could argue that it is being used in a way that affects the income that the family may otherwise have received from it, such as by wrongly associating him with something like terrorism, for example.

Though he acknowledged that laws vary between countries Mireskandari said that, in the UK at least, there are no ?personality rights? as such and that a case could not be brought for libel because the subject is dead. Any case for breach of privacy or confidence, he points out, would not apply either because the picture was captured in public and has already been so widely used.

The Guevara family are understood to be planning to mount their campaign concerning the image from the Che Guevara Studies Centre which opens in Havana later this year.

Keep an eye out for future issues of AP ? in shops every Tuesday ? for further developments.

Picture credit: Chris Cheesman