Posts In "Right of Publicity"

Right of Publicity




Electronic Arts Fumbles in Lawsuit Brought by College Athletes (again)

College sports is big business.  Student-athletes generate truckloads of cash for their schools, but are prohibited by NCAA rules from sharing in the haul.  In fact, if the student-athlete learns that someone is commercially exploiting his or her name or picture, NCAA rules require the student “to take steps to stop such an activity in order to retain his or her eligibility for intercollegiate athletics.”  (Wouldn’t we all have loved to have had that problem in college….)

Given this state of affairs, when Electronic Arts made its NCAA Football games using the likenesses of college athletes, it could not have obtained licenses from the students even if it had wanted to.  That would have violated NCAA rules.  So what happens when EA uses the likenesses of college athletes without permission, makes a bunch of money, and then doesn’t compensate the students?  After graduation, once they are no longer bound by NCAA rules, they all sue, of course!

Continue reading the full story . . . »




Leggo My Likeness, Part Four

There are so many fun things you can do with celebrities.  In addition to the traditional things like writing books about them, you can also use their catchphrases to make greeting cards; make movies about them using puppets; or even use claymation television to have them fight each other to the death.  But what about including digital representations of them in a video game?

A new case reinforces the holding of a previous case which stands for the proposition that you can’t put celebrities in a video game and then have them do exactly what they normally do in real life.  (For example, a game like “Lindsay Lohan:  Escape from Rehab” simply would not work).

Unfortunately, the case also sets a bad new precedent.

Continue reading the full story . . . »




Why Skip Bayless Should Probably Focus on the Super Bowl and Shut Up About This Whole “Kaepernicking” Trademark Application

So last week, I was on my 173rd consecutive hour of consuming blog articles, news stories, tweets, posts, video interviews, transcripts of interviews, analyses of transcripts of interviews, and opinions on the analyses of transcripts of interviews about Manti Te’o and his imaginary dead girlfriend, when I noticed that something else critical happened in the world of sports.  OMG OMG OMG!  Did you hear that Colin Kaepernick, NFC champion quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers and flat-billed hat enthusiast, recently “trademarked” his signature, tattooed-biceps-kissing touchdown celebration now known as “Kaepernicking?”

Wait, WHAT?!  Does this mean that when I finish this blog, Colin is telling me I can’t celebrate by jumping up from my desk and kissing my beautiful biceps?  Have you seen my biceps?  It’s hard for me to look down at them and not kiss them!  It’s like I have Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Chastain staring up at me from each bicep, lips pursed, like some insane Popeye fever dream.

In my panic, I poured through the incomprehensibly large number of stories about this.  But then I had a thought.  No, not “What am I doing with my life?”  No, not even “What is everyone at ESPN doing with their lives?”  No, my thought was “Wait wait… I’m a lawyer, damn it!  I actually know what all of this means!  These guys don’t!Continue reading the full story . . . »




Why Celebrities Who Don’t Want to Live in California Might Still Want to Die There

The right of publicity — the legal doctrine that protects the right of celebrities to control and profit from their names, likenesses, and other aspects of their identities — is a familiar topic here at Law Law Land.  But it can be a more complicated subject than we sometimes give it credit for.  Unlike copyright and trademark law, which are (mostly) defined by federal statutes that provide for consistent nationwide rules, the right of publicity is exclusively a creature of state law.  And, thanks to the patchwork of inconsistent and often confusing state laws that have evolved over the years (with heavy influence and lobbying from the heirs of particularly valuable/merchandisable celebrities, like Elvis Presley and Albert Einstein), its application to the dearly departed can get pretty quirky.  For example:

Are you a celebrity who died as a California resident?  Great — your heirs can exclusively exploit your name and likeness for another 70 years!  Oh, were you actually a New York resident when you died?  Just kidding, then, your heirs are totally out of luck, and unauthorized t-shirts with your face will be hitting stores shortly.  That is, unless, your heirs sue in Washington or Indiana, which purport to apply their right of publicity laws to any individual, regardless of whether the celebrity’s state of domicile recognizes the right.  Unless, of course, the federal courts decide that those laws are unconstitutional (a conclusion reached by a Washington district court in a 2011 case involving Jimi Hendrix; the Ninth Circuit will be making its own ruling soon).  And even among those states that expressly recognize a post-mortem right of publicity, there is broad disagreement about the length of protection afforded, the retroactivity of the statutes, and a whole host of other issues.  Got it?  Don’t worry, nobody else does either.

Just ask the lawyers for the estate of Marilyn Monroe, whose recent unsuccessful right of publicity lawsuit could be “Exhibit A” in renewed effort to enact a federal right of publicity law. Continue reading the full story . . . »




“Linsanity” Strikes the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

When I used to live in China, people liked to say, “Yao Ming lai le” (Yao Ming has arrived) whenever they saw my excessively tall frame lumbering towards them in a grocery store or crouching down beside them in a preposterously low-ceilinged subway car.  And I would smile, politely (usually while ducking my head under something or other).  At least they didn’t shout “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” whenever I went out.  That would have been weird.

But half a dozen years ago, calling a tall person Yao Ming in China wasn’t unusual.  Yao Ming was (and still is) a household name there.  If you were in China watching the NBA back then, you were watching the Houston Rockets — because that was more or less the only team you could watch on China Central Television 5 (the government approved sports channel).

Now, it’s all about “Linsanity” — both in China, and at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Continue reading the full story . . . »




Becoming Immune to Reputation Damage: Tips from Kim Kardashian?

This blogger is proud to say that I have never watched any show featuring a member of the Kardashian family (okay, okay, unless you count their step-brother Brody Jenner…you know I could never resist The Hills).  I normally try to pretend to steer clear of anything Kardashian, as I fall into the camp of people who wonder, “why the heck is she famous, anyway?”  (Yes, that’s a rhetorical question — I know it’s because of her video debut.)  But I can’t resist writing an update about the Old Navy commercial we posted about back in March 2011.  (Extra shout-out to fellow blogger Megan Rivetti for anticipating Kim K.’s lawsuit, which wasn’t actually filed until July.)

Kim’s lawsuit claims that Old Navy and its parent company The Gap Inc. violated her right of publicity and misled and confused consumers, and seeks $15­–20 million in damages.  (For more on the right of publicity, see here; for more on consumer confusion, see here; for more on how the actress who starred in the Old Navy commercial is totally re-living Kim Kardashian’s life in other ways, see here.)  But now The Gap’s lawyers are moving in on Kim’s “private life” (and the use of air quotes has never seemed more appropriate).  Among other things, they have sought financial records that show how much stores Bebe and Sears earned by making deals with Kim and why Bebe dropped Kim, and information about “Kim Kardashian’s reputation as a singer and dancer.”   As Eriq Gardner of THR, Esq. points out, one reason The Gap may be seeking information about Kim’s business dealings is to make out an argument — often used in defamation cases — that the plaintiff is “libel-proof” because her reputation is so ruined that no additional damage could be caused.

So let’s take a look at the contours of the so-called “libel-proof” defense. Continue reading the full story . . . »




WP Like Button Plugin by Free WordPress Templates