New York Legislators Trying To Make A Bad Publicity Law Even Worse
from the sue-anyone,-anywhere,-from-New-York-state dept
If there’s been a good right of publicity law enacted, we’ve yet to see it. Ostensibly enacted to prevent celebrities’ likenesses, words, etc. being used in way they wouldn’t approve of, the laws are usually deployed by dead celebrities’ families to censor speech. Most of the censorship activity focuses on commercial use of dead public figures, implying endorsements from beyond the grave. But the laws have also been abused to shut down biographical projects and, in one notable case, was used by a deposed and jailed dictator who though Activision should have paid him something for using his likeness in a Call of Duty game.
This is why the EFF is warning people about another right of publicity bill being quickly and quietly ushered through the New York state legislature.
The New York State Legislature is considering a bill that would radically reshape its right of publicity law. Assembly Bill A08155 [PDF] 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. The bill was introduced less than two weeks ago and is being rushed through without any hearings. EFF is urging legislators to slow down before passing an unnecessary law that would threaten the freedom of expression of individuals, activists, artists, and journalists around the United States.
New York already has an abusable right of publicity law. This bill would make it worse. It expands the definition of “likeness” to include things like “mannerisms” and “gestures.” It contains very few protections for free speech. It adds 40 years of postmortem protection, meaning those most likely to benefit from the law aren’t those whose likeness is being used/abused, but rather their heirs.
Perhaps worst of all, it expands the law’s jurisdiction, allowing out-of-state celebrities to file suits if their likenesses were used in the state of New York. This alone will encourage more litigation (even if most is dismissed early on), thanks to the internet’s lack of boundaries. Simply posting something on a website anywhere could place the person posting it at risk if the website is accessible in New York. It’s an invitation for forum-shopping, disguised as an extra layer of protection for public figures.
Filed Under: new york, publicity rights
Comments on “New York Legislators Trying To Make A Bad Publicity Law Even Worse”
“This bill would make it worse. It expands the definition of “likeness” to include things like “mannerisms” and “gestures.” It contains very few protections for free speech. It adds 40 years of postmortem protection, meaning those most likely to benefit from the law aren’t those whose likeness is being used/abused, but rather their heirs.”
So, impressionist comedians are illegal? The guy who did the brief Ed Sullivan impression in Pulp Fiction could be prosecuted if his heirs objected to the scene and/or movie? Alec Baldwin can go to jail if the orange one objects to his comedy sketches?
Where are the limits, I wonder?
Re: Where are the limits ?
Re: Re: Where are the limits ?
…there are no limits
American legislatures from rural counties all the way up to US Congress… are usually free to enact whatever laws/regulations they feel like. The courts rarely counter them — and nobody pays any practical attention to state/Federal constitutions… which are supposed to define the LIMITS
Re: Re: Re: Where are the limits ?
So, I’m curious.
If you live in a state that is not New York, post content that was not generated in New York to a server that is not located in New York, and you have never been to New York, what authority does a New York state civil court decision based solely on a New York state law have upon you?
What will they do if you ignore a court summons that lacks jurisdiction over you? Send you another one?
Freedom of Speech
Either you have it or you don’t.
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Hmmm… With the studio for Saturday Night Live in New York City maybe they would like to weigh in on this bill? It may curtail a good part of their material.
When I read this, SNL was this first thing that popped into my mind as well. It also seems that even if someone “recorded/fixed” something somewhere other than NY, but it was available in NY digitally or otherwise, someone could use this in NY as well, correct?
Initially, just like America’s original Copyright Act offered 14 years of protection. In other words it will be effectively permanent, extended every time a lucrative property nears the end of its protection.
Sigh – lawyers making more work for other lawyers. You have to call it a ‘racket’ these days.
Anyone like to send a “gesture or mannerism” to the Legislature?