Right to Privacy. Right of Publicity.

Recently someone asked me if she could put the face of a celebrity on some cookies that she baked for sale. She said, “I want to show potential customers how effective I am at creating customized cookies.”
It was a great question, which addressed an important Intellectual Property issue—Right of Publicity. For that reason, I wanted to tackle it in a blog post. My short and simple answer to her question is, do NOT put a celebrity’s face on any item you wish to sell, without permission from that celebrity.

Intellectual Property. What is Intellectual Property. Right of Publicity.

The Right of Publicity is one of 5 rights found, within the bundle of rights called Intellectual Property (IP). IP includes Copyrights, Trademarks, Patents, Trade Secrets, and Rights of Publicity. California is one of a handful of states that actually has a statute on this topic and the statute is tough, with very strong teeth. Californians take the violation of their Right of Publicity quite seriously, probably because there are so many celebrities who call California home. And know this, in some states, like California, the Right of Publicity does not only apply to celebrities, nor does it only apply to only living people. That means, of you violate someone’s Right of Publicity—even if they are dead—you can find yourself in court.
The Right of Publicity is a person’s right to control the monetization of their name, image, likeness, or persona. The unauthorized use of someone’s likeness, image, persona, and/or identity can land you in court.
So before you run out and put Sting, Michael Jackson, Brittany Spears, or George Clooney’s face on your T-shirts and then sell them, know the law!

Intellectual Property Attorney Francine Ward.

If you are interested in finding out what you can and cannot use, contact me. I am Attorney Francine Ward. My California, New York, and DC practice focuses on intellectual property law issues, such as Copyrights, Trademarks, Trade Secrets, Rights of Publicity, Sweepstakes & Contests, Publishing law, Entertainment law, and Social Media legal issues.

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