Right of Publicity

News & Analysis as of

California Federal Court Finds that the First Amendment Does Not Preclude Sporting Event Participants from Asserting...

On April 11, 2014, a California federal court issued a First Amendment ruling that has potentially significant implications for broadcasters in the sports-media industry. Specifically, the Northern District of California’s...more

Risks Of Tribute Advertisements Are Focus Of Seventh Circuit Decision

Think the First Amendment protects your business from liability for running an ad congratulating a celebrity or other public figure? Better think again. ...more

Right of Publicity? First, Let Me Take a Selfie

“Oh, he wants to do a selfie,” President Barack Obama observed with amusement before gamely posing with Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. Ortiz snapped the shot using his Samsung smartphone during a visit to the...more

Can Private Photos Be Used In Political Ads Without Permission? Colorado Court Rejects Gay Couple’s Misappropriation Claim;...

When we upload family pictures to the internet, we understand that, in theory, anyone in the world might download them and use them for some nefarious purpose. However, we usually take comfort in the fact that most of us...more

Purple Haze Lifted by Ninth Circuit Regarding Jimi Hendrix’s Post-Mortem Publicity Rights

In Experience Hendrix L.L.C. v. HendrixLicensing.com LTD, Nos. 11–35858, 11–35872 (9th Cir. Jan. 29, 2014), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of Washington State’s Personality Rights Act (WPRA),...more

Cyberlaw: Of Athletes And Video Games

Can a video game company use an athlete’s likeness in a game without his or her permission? The answer is maybe. The Ninth Circuit recently rejected Jim Brown’s Lanham Act Section 43 claim against Electronic Arts, Inc....more

Liability Insurer May Have to Cover Knockoff Jewelry Site for Allegedly Violating Reese Witherspoon’s Right of Publicity

Have you always wanted to own “The One Ring to Rule Them All” of Lord of the Rings fame? Do you dream of an engagement ring just like Kate Middleton’s? Your dreams can come true with a visit to Emitations.com, a website...more

Experience Jimi Hendrix, Post-Mortem Publicity Rights - Experience Hendrix LLC et al. v. HendrixLicensing.com LTD et al.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, reversing a district court’s ruling finding unconstitutional the provisions of the Washington Personality Rights Act pertaining to post-mortem publicity rights, qualified that...more

Publicity rights vs. the First Amendment

The right of publicity continues to emerge as a significant intellectual property right of which businesses must be aware—not only in the context of advertising and marketing, but in the context of a company’s product itself....more

Family of Jack Gibson, founder of the National Association of Radio Announcers for Black Radio DJs, enforces famous mark “Jack the...

Judge Thrash issued a ruling granting in part and denying in part the motion for summary judgment of plaintiffs (Jill Gibson Bell, et. al., hereinafter “Gibson Family”) against Billy Darren Foster (“Foster”) for trade mark...more

Heirs’ Right of Publicity

When I read about one of the recent “right of publicity” cases, I thought back to the Eighties and “Who Shot JR?” This is because Mary Crosby, as the character Kristin Shepard, was the one who shot JR in 1980 on the widely...more

“Hustlin’” to a Legal Victory: Rick Ross and the Right of Publicity

California gives you the right to profit from your own identity. But what if you assume somebody else’s? Rick Ross is famous for rapping about cocaine. Ricky D. Ross is famous for selling it. Ross (the cocaine...more

Leggo My Likeness Part V: Grand Theft Right of Publicity?

This year, several important video game lawsuits helped clarify the parameters for using a celebrity’s likeness in video games. Generally speaking, courts have found that, unless you get permission, you can’t put a celebrity...more

NCAA’s Battle Continues in the Fight Over Who Should Pay for the Use of Student-Athlete Likenesses

Since 2009, former student-athletes have been litigating the issue of whether the apparent commodification of student-athlete likenesses in video games entitles the athletes to compensation. Defendants in these lawsuits...more

Advertising Law -- Nov 25, 2013

Child-Directed Sweepstakes Ran Afoul of COPPA - A sweepstakes conducted by a magazine for tween girls raised concerns under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, the Children's Advertising Review Unit...more

District Court Declines to Certify Damages Subclass in NCAA Case

On November 8, 2013, the Northern District of California certified a class of current and former student athletes seeking injunctive relief under the Sherman Act but declined to certify a damages subclass in the case In re...more

When Does the Right of Publicity Trump a Video Game Maker’s First Amendment Rights?

On September 24, 2013, Electronic Arts, Inc. (“EA”) reached a $40 million dollar settlement of lawsuits over the use of college athletes’ likenesses in EA’s popular college football video game series NCAA Football. EA also...more

Balancing Freedom Of Expression And The Right Of Publicity: Implications For The Future Of Interactive Entertainment

Freedom of expression bowed to the right of publicity on July 31, 2013, when a divided panel at the Ninth Circuit ruled that college athletes could proceed in litigation against Electronic Arts (“EA”) for making sports-based...more

October 2013: Sports Litigation Update - Athletes Prevail in Right of Publicity Suits Against Video Game Designer

Two federal appellate courts held this summer that the First Amendment does not insulate video game maker Electronic Arts (“EA”) from right of publicity suits brought by football players whose likenesses it used as part of...more

Captain Phillips' Crew Lawsuit Has No Merit [Video]

Noted Admiralty Attorney and Author, Dr. Capt. John A.C. Cartner was interviewed by Maritime TV in response to recent press accounts of a lawsuit claim filed by several former crew members of the Maersk Alabama related to...more

Where Everybody Knows Your Name(s)

Who would you expect to find sitting at the end of the bar in this recently re-named Minneapolis sports bar, formerly known as Halek’s Bar? What if you were to queue a very familiar tune to these lyrics, would that...more

Emerging Growth and Venture Capital News - Fall 2013

NEW SEC GENERAL SOLICITATION AND “BAD ACTOR” RULES RE PRIVATE STOCK SALES NOW IN EFFECT - New Securities and Exchange Commission rules concerning private stock sales are now in effect. Under these rules, for...more

Advertising Law -- Sep 26, 2013

Julia Child Foundation Whips Up Lawsuit Against Williams-Sonoma - Williams-Sonoma illegally used the name and likeness of the late Julia Child more than 100 times in advertising, marketing, and promotional materials...more

Update on the Facebook Case Involving Alleged Misappropriation of User Likenesses

Last week the blog discussed a case called Fraley v. Facebook Inc., No. C-11-1726 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 26, 2013) which involved allegations that Facebook's "Sponsored Stories" program misappropriated the names and likenesses of...more

Ninth Circuit Fumbles The Ball In Videogame Likeness Cases

Creating a new rule that gives videogames much more limited protection than other expressive works, the Ninth Circuit has ruled that realistically depicting college athletes in videogames showing them doing what they became...more

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