Right of Publicity – Have you ever thought about using a living or dead person’s name, image, photograph, or likeness on your website, or in your book, song, or play? If so, think again, or you may find yourself on the other side of a costly lawsuit.
The law prevents you from making money off of someone’s image or likeness. The right that a person has to protect their identity is called the right of publicity. It’s a form of intellectual property that applies to celebrities and non-celebrities, as well as to living and deceased individuals.
Each state makes its own rules regarding the right of publicity, but the general rule of law is that any person who uses a living or deceased personality’s name, voice, identity, signature, photograph, or likeness—in any manner, whether on products, merchandise, or other goods, or for advertising or selling, without prior consent is liable.
While there may be some exceptions to the general rule, it is best that you avoid even the appearance of violating someone’s right of publicity.
Here are 4 tips to help you avoid being sued:
- Ask for permission before using someone’s identity, name, photo, or story in your book, website, or other money-making vehicle.
- Have them sign a written Release before you interview them or use their identifying information.
- If they refuse to sign your Release, DON’T use their information.
- Make sure the Release includes everything you need to be protected (Internet boilerplate templates will not provide you with that protection).
Francine D. Ward
Attorney-At-Law, Author, Speaker
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