Can you use real-life political figures and caricatures in a board/card game?
4 attorney answers
You will probably need the written permission of these famous individuals because their right to publicity varies from state to state. Absent this written permission you are facing a minefield of possible lawsuits. Celebrities are notorious for policing the misappropriation of their images and identities.
No attorney client relationship is created with this post and no legal advice has been rendered. This is for general informational purposes only and does not apply to any specific set of facts which have been reviewed by me. The information contained in this response has not been verified and is not necessarily accurate or reliable, or applicable to any particular jurisdiction. Always hire a licensed attorney to represent your legal interests.
Quite frankly, no one on line can really assist you unless and until they examine what you have done. I strongly urge you to contact one of us, as many of us offer free initial consultations. Good luck!
You need to have it vetted before making any further investment. As noted, the issues concern the right of publicity and privacy, but that is typically concerning the promotion of sale of goods and services. Using pictures of public figures to comment on specially even if done in the context of a game is likely not going to be considered a violation of that right, whereas using the same images in your ads to sell the game will likely cross the line, But I offer no conclusions here over this free and quite public Q&A platform.
Further, you need make sure that you have the right to use all the images you are using from a copyright perspective. Just because you are commenting on Sarah Palin does not mean you are free to use any image you find of her.
I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free phone consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with.
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed with the law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC on the basis of this posting.
I understand that you feel your game falls within the free speech/parody/commentary which is part of the "fair use" defense to copyright infringement. However, the issue that you would be facing is the right of publicity that these public figures enjoys. You have a potential liability issue if any of these public figures feels that they should be compensated for the use of their likeness and name in your game. I strongly suggest that you retain an experienced IP attorney to review your game and provide you with the appropriate clearance and guidance. You can contact an experienced Intellectual Property attorney or firm and request a free initial telephone or video conference. Many IP firms, like our own, offer such an initial free conference and would be happy to speak with you. Call and speak with an experienced Intellectual Property attorney who can assist you.
Mr. Sack's postings on Avvo are of a general nature, based on the facts provided and are not intended to be taken as legal advice or to establish an attorney-client relationship.