Chris Bosh Claims Basketball Wives TV Show Infringes On His 'Life Rights'

from the publicity-rights-gone-mad dept

It can certainly be embarrassing if an “ex” has not so nice things to say about you. That’s even more true if you’re famous, and the ex is publicly dishing the dirt on your relationship — perhaps in a tell-all book or a TV show. But is that illegal? That appears to be the claim of NBA player Chris Bosh. scarr points us to the news that Bosh is suing the producers of VH1’s Basketball Wives for violating his trademark, publicity rights and “life rights,” because his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child is on the show.

You can see the full filing below, and it’s one of those kitchen sink filings, where Bosh and his lawyers toss in all sorts of random complaints, even if there are no legal issues there. For example, it complains that the show is called Basketball Wives, but the women are often ex-wives or merely girlfriends. It also complains that Bosh’s ex-girlfriend is trying to promote her own brand. Both of these claims should be answered with a big: “So what?”

Bosh tries to get around the obvious First Amendment defense of his ex- by claiming that her participation and speech on the show is primarily commercial, rather than communicative:

“The use of Plaintiff’s name by Defendants is primarily commercial and not communicative. Further, the show, ‘Basketball Wives,’ is not transformative, but rather the use, depiction, or imitation of celebrity NBA basketball players, including Plaintiff, is the very sum and substance of the show.”

Basically, it’s clear that Bosh doesn’t like his ex- being on the show, and clearly isn’t happy about what’s being said about him. But none of that means he has a legal right to stop it.

Beyond the standard “publicity rights” claims that are so popular these days due to bizarre and dangerous state laws, it seems that Bosh is going even further in claiming that this is also a violation of his “life rights,” claiming that you need a celebrity’s permission to portray them, which isn’t actually true. This seems to be a misreading of California’s publicity rights law.

To be honest, while this case will likely settle one way or the other, it actually seems like it could be a good case for establishing some case law that you don’t need a celebrity’s permission to talk or write about them, and you’re not violating their “publicity rights,” “life rights,” or trademark by appearing in a show based on your connection to them.

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Comments on “Chris Bosh Claims Basketball Wives TV Show Infringes On His 'Life Rights'”

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taoareyou (profile) says:

As long as everything she claims as truth cannot be proven a lie, then her life with him is hers to discuss.

Her “life rights” include being able to talk about anything that has happened to her and her feelings in response to anything or anyone in her life, or even her feelings towards something of which she is merely aware.

Actually, she doesn’t even need to be aware of/educated on a subject to be able to talk about it. 🙂

It looks like Mr. Bosh is attempting to claim his rights trump her rights because he feels more important.

Anonymous Coward says:

…the use, depiction, or imitation of celebrity NBA basketball players, including Plaintiff, is the very sum and substance of the show.

He’s actually claiming that the show isn’t about the “wives” at all, in his mind it’s really all about him!

Sounds like someone thinks a bit much of himself.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:

Maybe this lawsuit is an attempt to get more renowned. Non-sports fans like myself will not hear of people like Bosh unless he fires lawsuits like this or gets accused of sexual assault like Kobe Bryant or shoots himself like Plaxico Burress.

Too bad for him that his name just isn’t as distinct as Kobe or Plaxico to be memorable enough.

Steve says:


I think that there is something to be said about how VH1 is marketing a show that is basically about a bunch of “no-name” women by calling the show Basketball Wives and marketing the stars as the “wives” of famous basketball players, even though the “wives” aren’t actually married to the players and some never were.

VH1 is leveraging the public image of the players in order to boost the show’s ratings. Without the player’s publicity the show would not be popular.

Would you watch a show called women who slept with basketball players?

Pay the players for using their name or don’t use their name.

Squirrel Brains (profile) says:

Re: Actually...

This would put an incredible transaction cost burden on the public. Plus, just because something is commercial does not mean that it loses its first amendment right.

Does the show have more value because they got a woman who slept with him? Probably. Is it hurting him economically or reduce the ability to exploit is own fame? No. Does she have the right to talk about her relationship with him in any forum she wishes? Absolutely.

Steve says:

Re: Re: Actually...

How would it put an incredible transaction cost burden on the public?

So call the show, I slept with a basketball player, and let her say anything she wants (that isn’t slander). I think she has a right to say anything she wants, and should be removed from the lawsuit because of that, but VH1 is profiting from his fame, and the way he exploits his fame is by charging people to use his name and or likeness when promoting products. Since VH1 isn’t paying him, I’d argue that they are in fact hurting him economically.

Squirrel Brains (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Actually...

The transactional costs come from having to determine who is famous enough, how to contact them, wait for permission and them pay them. Above an beyond that, you must figure out when you need permission to mention a “famous” person’s name and deal with all the uncertainty.

I don’t see how your proposed title would solve the problem. I don’t see why the title is even the problem. It doesn’t mention the player specifically. I am not even sure how his fame is being exploited for non-speech purposes. She is just telling her story which requires her and the show promoting her story to tell who she actually slept with.

The whole exploit fame argument is circular anyway. There is no market because no one is paying. No one will be paying because there isn’t a market. Now, if his face was being put on a box of wheaties there there was an implied endorsement, I think that is a very different matter entirely. Maybe a likeliness of confusion inquiry is required.

Steve says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Actually...

Not “famous enough:”
Woman – “I Josh Q Public’s baby mamma.”
Producer – “Who the hell is John Q Public?”

“Famous enough:”
Woman – “I’m Chris Bosh’s baby mamma.”
Producer – “Really? Tell me more.”

“She is just telling her story which requires her and the show promoting her story to tell who she actually slept with.”

I think you’re looking at it backwards. You don’t think a single advertisement or tweet or status update mentioned the name Chis Bosh, when the producers were trying to build hype for the show? Her story is appealing because she slept with a famous person. That’s why every radio station has talked about the name of Mariah Carey’s twins, but not my daughter’s. The twins’ story is interesting because their mother is Mariah Carey.

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Actually...

See post #1 up above. If a woman has shared life experiences with said player and presents the truth – as seen/experienced by her then he needs to shut the eff up and get over himself. Sorry, but her “life rights” included time spent with him and she is free to share them with whomever she pleases for whatever compensation the two parties agree on.

If she lies about his behavior or specific facts, there are laws that cover those instances (libel, slander, defamation of character, etc.).

However, if he acts like an ass, or treats her like crap, then she passes that information along, well, too bad for Mr. Bosh. Karma is a bitch that has no mercy and could care less who you are or how much money you make.

TechDan (profile) says:

This is an interesting case. The show itself is called Baskteball Wives.

The whole point of the show is to cash in on the fame of several players. It would be a completely different show and would lose much of its appeal if it was called “Ex-Girlfriends of a bunch of no-name shmucks.”

Not sure how I feel about the case itself, but it’s pretty clear to me that the show is attempting to profit from his fame, regardless of what comments here suggest. I just don’t happen to know what that means from a legal perspective.

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