Yet Another Attempt To Expand Publicity Rights Rejected

from the phew dept

We’ve talked a few times recently about continued attempts to broaden the rather questionable concept of “publicity rights.” The original idea behind publicity rights were to stop a company from using a famous person’s name or likeness without permission in a way to suggest they endorsed the product. I can understand why that would seem desirable, but it opens up so many questionable unintended consequences that it becomes troubling pretty quickly. Quite frequently, we see attempts to use publicity rights to stop perfectly legitimate uses of a likeness just because someone doesn’t like how it was used.

In a recent case, a Cuban author sued over his name and images being used on a TV show and also on clips of that show that were uploaded to YouTube. The good news is that the court seems to have quickly realized that this claim has nothing to do with what publicity rights are supposed to cover. The judge points out that publicity rights don’t mean a TV show can’t use your name or image. It’s only supposed to prevent the idea that you endorsed some product that you did not. And having the guy’s name and image on a television program doesn’t suggest he’s endorsing anything.

It’s good to see courts rejecting ridiculous publicity rights claims, but as we see more and more of these, it’s only a matter of time until a judge makes a big mistake.

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Comments on “Yet Another Attempt To Expand Publicity Rights Rejected”

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Jesus says:

Many people have been using my likeness in toast, grilled cheese sandwiches and even Google earth. I’ve got to tell ya, it is becoming quite the joke up here. You guys really have to knock it off already. You can not just go around using my face on every little trinket just so you can sell it on Ebay to some sucker. Come on already !

Mitch Featherston (profile) says:


If you are a living, breathing human, then you deserve to not have your likeness used in an unlawful way. What I would like to see is an end to ALL claims to publicity rights for dead people… makes ZERO sense. The idea that I’d have to pay anything to use the likeness of James Dean (who died over 50 years ago) is a total joke. Another problem is that the laws vary from state to state… usually the states where someone famous lived, like Tennessee (Elvis), California (“movie stars”) or Georgia (MLK), you see hardcore laws.

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