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Thursday, 13 December 2007

No life after death, but plenty of publicity rights

The IPKat was wondering if any of his readers know much about California's recent piece of state legislation on posthumous protection for rights of publicity (Senate Bill No.771, 2007 Cal. Stat. ch 439), which Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law on 10 October. The new law reputedly clarifies that a deceased person’s publicity rights may be passed by will even if that person died before 1 January 1985. Apparently this was once believed to be the law, but had been called into doubt by some recent Federal Court decisions: CMG Worldwide, Inc. v Milton H. Greene Archives LLC, C.D. Cal., No. CV 05-2200 and Shaw Family Archives Ltd. v CMG Worldwide, Inc., 486 F.Supp.2d 309 (S.D.N.Y., May 2, 2007).

Above right: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Below, left, Bela Lugosi, whose post-mortem publicity litigation in California did so much to promote the cause

The idea of not only having posthumous protection but being able to dispose of it after one's death is immensely appealing to the IPKat, but he is surprised that this is something that has more or less got stuck at state level. How come WIPO hasn't seized the initiative and sought to establish minimum levels of protection internationally? Or has he missed something?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, I too am suprised WIPO isn't all over this. Think of all the people who would be busy developing personalities of their own if only they knew they'd be able to pass them to their heirs...

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess that, since WIPO already has so much trouble establishing dates of birth, they don't want to be dragged into arguments concerning dates of death...

Jeremy said...

Thank to Charles Swan (Swan Turton), who writes: "I'm not up to date with what's happening now in California (and New York) on this subject, but I did an e-bulletin on it a while ago: http://www.swanturton.com/ebulletins/archive/bombshell.aspx

The idea of American style rights of publicity being introduced here in the UK is one which would be very unappealing to many of my clients, eg photo libraries. Fortunately for them, the entertainment industry is a less powerful lobby here than it is in the USA and the general British public, if it thought about it, would probably rather have a broadly uncontrolled supply of images of dead celebrities rather than one which was heavily regulated by celebrties' heirs and their merchandising companies. The issue of posthumous celebrity rights only really comes up if the deceased person was already big in their lifetime, unlike copyright. Stars don't get rich and famous after they die. Do their heirs therefore really need all that extra money?".

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