Arkansas Narrowly Avoids Enactment Of Sweeping Publicity Rights Statute

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Yesterday, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed Senate Bill 79.  Governor Hutchinson noted that, while the intent of the bill was to “protect the names, voices, signatures, photographs and likenesses of the citizens of [Arkansas] from exploitation and unauthorized commercial use without the citizen’s consent,” the language of the bill extended likeness protection too far, unnecessarily restricting free expression and potentially fomenting unnecessary litigation within the State of Arkansas.

Governor Hutchinson focused on the Bill’s definition of “commercial use,” which was overbroad and vague, and could arguably include speech beyond ordinary commercial speech, “including expressive speech produced for a profit.”  In addition, specific types of speech traditionally recognized as expressive, such as plays, books, magazines, newspapers, audiovisual works and art are only exempt under the statute to the extent that they are protected by the First Amendment.  After receiving a flurry of communications from media associations including the MPAA, the NPPA and the DMLA, as well as street photographers and artists, the Governor pointed out that the Bill, as drafted, would suppress artistic expression by citizens of Arkansas, including photography and other art work.

The Senate Bill 79, as vetoed, can be found here.

Governor Hutchinson’s veto letter can be found here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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