Written by attorney Gregory Timothy Victoroff

Rights of Publicity

Under state statutes and case law, individuals have so-called privacy rights which restrict the use of a person’s name, signature, likeness and voice from any commercial use without permission, not just celebrities. There is no federal “right of publicity” or “right to privacy” law. Different state laws exist in every state, both statutory and common law, although the federal Lanham Act § 43a prohibits the use of personal names under certain circumstances. State privacy laws also extend to property closely associated with a person’s identity, such as racecars, houses, pets, etc. Different rules apply if the individual is deceased. In California, a deceased celebrity must register with the Secretary of State and an exception in the law permits the commercial sale of a deceased person’s likeness in single and original work of fine art. Photographs, paintings and sculptures are “commercial products” and websites are advertisements. No monetary profit is necessary for a use to be “commercial”.

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