Right to Privacy & Right of Publicity
There are areas of law that specifically deal with the right of the individual to control his/her image and reputation, and in that regard are akin to intellectual property. These are the so-called “Right To Privacy” and the “Right Of Publicity.” Invasion of either of these rights typically occurs via the unauthorized use of the image, likeness, name or description of a person in print or some electronic media, e.g., radio or television. Since the Internet and its World Wide Web provide an easily accessible medium for conveying textual and graphic information to a virtually world wide audience, it is expected that many future claims for invasion of the rights of privacy and/or publicity will be based on some Internet activity.
The Right To Privacy is the right of an individual to be left alone. There are four types of recognized invasions of this right. Those invasions are the so-called torts of “intrusion,” “public disclosure of private facts,” “false light,” and “appropriation.” Intrusion occurs when the private affairs and the seclusion of an individual are invaded, either physically or otherwise, and is redressable if the intrusion would be offensive to a reasonable person. This tort does not require any publication of the private affairs of the victim. The tortious invasion of the Right To Privacy by public disclosure of private facts does, however, require publication, and is only redressable if the matter publicized would be offensive to a reasonable person and would not be of legitimate public interest or concern. Moreover, the publication must be to more than a few persons. The tortious placing of a person in a “false light” requires the tortfeasor to publicly place the aggrieved person in a light that would be offensive to a reasonable person. To recover for an invasion of this right the individual placed in the false light must show that the tortfeasor knew that the matter published was false, or else acted with reckless disregard in publishing the material placing the person in the false light. Tortious appropriation constitutes a violation of the right of an individual not to have his or her name or likeness appropriated by another for commercial gain.
The Right Of Publicity gives the individual the right to control his name, face, image or voice for commercial purposes. In short, it protects an individual’s property right in his or her persona. A violation of this right occurs when an individual’s name, likeness or identity has been misappropriated by another for commercial purposes. The victim in such a case is entitled to recover for the unauthorized economic gain by the tortfeasor. Many states recognize the Right Of Publicity as a common law cause of action, while in other states it is statutory. In some states, the right is personal so that it may only be asserted by the individual wronged during his/her life. In other states the right is descendable and can be asserted by the heirs of the wronged individual. In some states the right is also assignable.
Members of our Right to Privacy & Right of Publicity Team apply their legal expertise to provide our clients with the know-how for them to exploit and enforce their privacy and publicity rights. The team provides the necessary counseling and guidance to encourage and help our clients to be knowledgeable of their rights in such matters as their image, voice, signature or anything else that can be associated exclusively with that particular individual. In so doing, our team also participates in licensing negotiations and litigation, when necessary.
In addition, the Team provides:
- Enforcement of the right to prohibit the use of protected images in unauthorized advertising and for unauthorized promotional purposes
- Licensing of photographs of persons for commercial products
- Negotiating and defending against claims and assertions of violations of privacy and publicity rights
Areas in which the Team has represented clients include:
- Licensing of photographs of celebrity sports figures
- Use of celebrity persona in association with and promotion of commercial products