Posts Tagged ‘right of publicity’

Some problems with the right of publicity

The right of publicity, or right to control the commercial use of one’s identity, has developed as judge-made law and in state statutes; it also figures in many other nations’ law, often under the heading of “personality rights.” Together with the convention of treating it as a form of property rather than a personal right it leads to some practically dubious consequences, discussed by guest blogger Jennifer Rothman in a series of Volokh Conspiracy posts based on a new book. Among them are legal risks for reporting on and depictions of both living and deceased persons, including biographies and discussion of public figures; proposals for transferability and alienability of the right would also mean that persons can in some circumstances lose control over their identities while alive.

Media law roundup

“New York does not have a chronic celebrity shortage that warrants rushed and careless legislation”

“The right of publicity is an offshoot of state privacy law that gives a person the right to limit the public use of her name, likeness, or identity for commercial purposes….Since the right of publicity can impact a huge range of speech, any changes to the law should be considered carefully.” But an Assembly bill in New York is being moved forward without much discussion that “would dramatically expand New York’s right of publicity, making it a property right that can be passed on to your heirs – even if you aren’t a New York resident.” [Daniel Nazer, EFF] Compare another piece of legislation intended to protect celebrities’ interests yet not well thought out, California’s recently enacted restrictions on the sale of signed memorabilia.

For Prince’s name, perpetual posthumous protection?

In the aftermath of Prince’s death, lawyers representing the entertainer’s estate administrator have been pushing a posthumous right of publicity law in Minnesota. The proposed PRINCE Act (“Personal Rights In Names Can Endure”) would forbid the use of an individual’s name “in any medium in any manner” without consent, which critics say makes it a rare instance of a law that actually violates itself. [David Post/Volokh, Jacob Gershman/WSJ Law Blog]

“Target has right to sell Rosa Parks biographies, commemorative plaque”

In an important decision, the Eleventh Circuit has ruled that the Rosa Parks estate does not have the right to prevent the use of the likeness and words of the late civil rights leader in biographies and tribute material. While the “right of publicity” in privacy law, best known for enabling the estates of deceased entertainers to control commercialization of their identity, has not been applied so broadly as to prevent the publication of unauthorized biographies and discussions of historical figures, its exact bounds have been uncertain; the new decision makes clear that a broad range of discussion of figures and movements of public interest counts as protected speech that does not depend on survivors’ permission. [Eugene Volokh]

April 22 roundup

Estate of late D.C. mayor is suing his kidney donor

“One of Kim Dickens’ kidneys helped keep Marion Barry alive in 2008. But the late Ward 8 councilmember’s estate isn’t eager to return the favor, according to a new lawsuit filed against Dickens by widow Cora Masters Barry.” The suit says Dickens’ foundation continues to use the image of the late Washington mayor, sometimes nicknamed “Mayor-for-Life”, in its promotion despite demands that it stop doing so. “This looks to be the first fight over Barry’s estate, which otherwise left behind little in terms of assets.” [Washington City Paper]

December 2 roundup

  • “Lying to a Lover Could Become ‘Rape’ In New Jersey” [Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Reason, Scott Greenfield]
  • “A $21 Check Prompts Toyota Driver to Wonder Who Benefited from Class Action” [Jacob Gershman, WSJ Law Blog]
  • On “right of publicity” litigation over the image of the late General George Patton [Eugene Volokh]
  • HBO exec: “We have probably 160 lawyers” looking at film about Scientology [The Hollywood Reporter]
  • Revisiting the old and unlamented Cambridge, Mass. rent control system [Fred Meyer, earlier]
  • Lawyers! Wanna win big by appealing to the jurors’ “reptile” brain? Check this highly educational offering [Keenan Ball]
  • “Suit claims Google’s listings for unlicensed locksmiths harmed licensed business” [ABA Journal]