Why We Need Adequate Right of Publicity Laws
Together we share the belief that individuals and their heirs should control the commercial use of their identity, both in life and in death. Unfortunately, opportunistic individuals and companies seek to profit off of the reputation built by others’ endeavors and lifetime investment. Without adequate right of publicity laws, states expose living and deceased personalities to abuse and theft, jeopardizing their legacy and harming their families.
Consumers and audiences are drawn to products, merchandise, live performances, video games, movies, TV shows, and other media that are associated with or feature a recognizable and likeable personality. Right of publicity laws allow the entire media industry—including advertisers, manufacturers, content creators, and personalities—to benefit from this valuable intellectual property. The law empowers the personality to control and exploit their own identity, which allows its property value to rise with market demand rather than become diluted with unauthorized use. The value of the goodwill attributed to their identity benefits productions, games, services, and products lawfully associated with it, and the law allows for accessible enforcement against those who trade in it unfairly.
New technologies and advancements in motion picture sciences have even made it possible for content creators and advertisers to insert living and deceased personalities into projects without the participation of—or possibly even authorization from—the individual or their family. It is imperative that our brothers and sisters in the entertainment and sports industries be able to control which motion pictures and video games they are going to appear in, and whether they will perform post-mortem in a holographic performance. Properly crafted, the right of publicity allows these new technologies to emerge without harming the personalities or estates involved.
The right of publicity protects more than just entertainers, models, and athletes; it also ensures all Americans have the basic right to control commercial exploitation of their identity. After all, images of non-celebrities also hold commercial value, and are regularly used by advertisers to mimic a consumer’s everyday experiences and desires. As stated by the United States Supreme Court in Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting, there is no social purpose for a state to allow an individual or corporation to get “free some aspect of [an individual] that would have market value for which he would normally pay.”
We stand together with Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, National Football League Players Association, Major League Baseball Players Association, National Hockey League Players’ Association, National Basketball Players Association, and Major League Soccer Players Union to advocate for adequate right of publicity laws so that states can protect entertainers, and the public at large, from commercial exploitation.
Kevin Bacon, actor and musician
Alec Baldwin, actor, writer, producer, and comedian
Zak DeOssie, New York Giants
Noah Emmerich, actor
Whoopi Goldberg, actor, comedian, author, and television host
Mark Herzlich, New York Giants
Hugh Jackman, actor
Sean Johnson, New York FC
Julianna Margulies, actor and producer
Cynthia Nixon, actor
Harry Shearer, entertainer
Clarence “Reginald” Toussaint, musician, audio engineer, producer, and son of Allen Toussaint
Ricky “Slick Rick” Walters, recording artist
Michelle Williams, actor