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.

Filed Under: basketball wives, chris bosh, life rights, publicity rights, trademark


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    TechDan (profile), 5 May 2011 @ 4:14pm

    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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