Personality Rights, or Rights of Publicity, used to be a fairly narrow subject. But in the digital age, things have become somewhat more complex. Once solely the realm of movie stars, music icons, and sporting wonders, today’s world of influencers, YouTube artists, reality TV, and the like has led to a far wider span of people whose identity represents significant value.
Personality rights include not only a person’s image but also their name and the right to privacy. In addition, there are also broader aspects not so easily defined but nonetheless vitally important, such as:
- A person’s “likeness”
- A celebrity brand
- Territorial, linguistic, and product usage of a person’s name and likeness
Add in the fact that personality rights are not defined by federal law, as well as a lack of harmonization when it comes to other countries, and you begin to appreciate quite how perplexing the subject can be.
Personality rights combine the more traditional terms of privacy rights and intellectual property rights, and a lawsuit can be brought about if an infringement is discovered. However, one major issue is how such rights apply when a person is deceased. Laws regarding this are governed at the state level. For example, in New York personality rights do not extend after death, yet in California, they carry on for a further 70 years.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg: the digital age has brought with it its own unique set of complications.
- Social media images: These, along with the ease that they can be shared and used, make for a tricky situation. Disputes arise when these are posted without permission and link to advertising in any form. While there are very obvious infractions of such events, there also continues to be many new cases arising as unscrupulous brands become ever more inventive in their online use of illegal identity applications.
- Image removal: Unauthorized use of a person’s image on social media is also a grey area. While newsworthy transmissions are, of course, allowed, other uses that violate personality rights may have cause for recourse.
The subject of an individual’s rights of publicity is continually being explored through law. Strategies that prevent the infringement of an image, name, or likeness in the first