Saturday, July 23, 2005

Understanding (and Avoiding) the Right of Publicity

A brief google gives us some interesting paragraphs....

Right of publicity, which involves a celebrity’s right to commercialize his own name, likeness, personality or other relevant aspects of identity, has been recognized by a number of states. If you work in digital or print media, advertising or other companies that publish a celebrity’s likeness from time to time, you need to know about the right of publicity of the celebrity. A tension may arise between companies’ First Amendment rights to expression on the one hand and the celebrity’s interests on the other. Being careful about the use of the celebrity’s likeness may reduce the risk of a claim by the celebrity that you have violated his right to publicity.


The right of publicity protects each person,celebrity or not, and allows each to control and profit from his or her identity. A majority of states recognize publicity rights either by statute or through case law. California and some others protect publicity rights even after a person’s death.

You may have a multi-million-dollar problem when you use another’s photo without that person’s permission. A jury in California recently awarded a kindergarten teacher, Russell Christoff, $15.6 million for violating his right of publicity. The violation arose when Nestle U.S.A. used his image without authorization on its Taster’s Choice coffee labels
I looked these up for you because I wanted to address an issue raised by Shelby in an earlier post. Apparently, two years ago, Debra Tate, in an effort to control her legal rights as executor of Sharon's estate, issued letters trying to control the posting of photos on the internet. I went through the Sharon Tate Candids Yahoo group with her help and reviewed these asinine comments made by Debra's rep, Robin Olsen.

But all that needed to happen was that Debra need to be replied to-- "Yes you own her likeness for commercial gain. We are not making shirts or posters or mugs, we are not selling anything. These photos are NOT owned by you. You have no claim here. Go away." Because legally she does not.

Similarly, and I must confess, sadly, when they tried to get Nelson to stop selling the Death Photos online, she had no claim at all...she doesn't OWN those photos. Which is how she couldn't stop the exhibit of Fearless Vampire Killers photos in LA this year...or indeed the sale of Sharon's movies.

She COULD stop a photo of Sharon that she doesn't own being used to sell a new car or something... and similarly could also contract for that to happen.

Debra's rights should be respected--- but she doesn't have the right to threaten people randomly.


MisterWeinstein said...

are you saying that Sharon Tate is featured in that age-old SANKA packaging? And IS there a credible place to find real crime scene fotos from the case?

Anonymous said...

colscott i just wanted to say that this is an excellent post. very well said. applause!

ColScott said...

MW- No clearly you Ghey TV Writer I am saying that Sharon's image may NOT be used in such and ad without payment.

If you use GOOGLE Images "Sharon Tate Death" you will find the death fotos- but they are sick.

Shelby- Gracias- I DO mean well!