Legal Issues

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
new york, publicity rights



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.


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  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 15 Jun 2017 @ 3:57am

    "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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2017 @ 6:44am

      Re: Where are the limits ?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2017 @ 6:53am

        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

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Bergman (profile), 17 Jun 2017 @ 2:38pm

          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?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2017 @ 4:14am

    Freedom of Speech

    Either you have it or you don't.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    ryanwagner (profile), 15 Jun 2017 @ 4:49am

    indian restaurant in singapore

    With the chef and address for the day's menu and the banquet menu. He also works with the heads of the other departments for the good operation of the restaurant. It often explains to the waiters the terminology and way of preparing the food before serving and sometimes it can prepare various dishes in front of the customer. It is indeed the Principal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2017 @ 6:41am

    SNL

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tddrummer (profile), 15 Jun 2017 @ 7:23am

      Re: SNL

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 15 Jun 2017 @ 7:25am

    It adds 40 years of postmortem protection

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 15 Jun 2017 @ 8:55am

    Typical

    Sigh - lawyers making more work for other lawyers. You have to call it a 'racket' these days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 15 Jun 2017 @ 12:11pm

    Anyone like to send a "gesture or mannerism" to the Legislature?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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