Right of Publicity

What Is Right of Publicity?

The right of publicity is an intellectual property right that protects against the misappropriation of a person’s name, likeness, or other indicia of personal identity—such as nickname, pseudonym, voice, signature, likeness, or photograph—for commercial benefit.

In the United States, no federal statute or case law recognizes the right of publicity, although federal unfair competition law recognizes a related statutory right to protection against false endorsement, association, or affiliation. A majority of states do, however, recognize the right of publicity by statute and/or case law. States diverge on whether the right survives posthumously and, if so, for how long, and also on whether the right of publicity is inheritable or assignable.

Outside the United States, rights analogous to the right of publicity are sometimes recognized as “personality rights,” “rights of persona,” or other similar terminology, and the source and scope of those rights vary.

From a trademark point of view, a person’s name or likeness can—through proper trademark use and/or registration—also develop into a trademark. As a result, some celebrities register their names and/or likenesses as trademarks.

When considering right of publicity issues, copyright claims, privacy claims, and defamation claims may also arise.

The right of publicity is an evolving and developing area of the law that has similarities to trademark law and may also impact brand owners.

Our Position

We adopted a Board Resolution in 2019 that sets out proposed minimum standards for a right of publicity. These standards can be used as a foundation for jurisdictions that recognize, or are considering recognizing, publicity rights. This is the first step in achieving the long-term goal of harmonizing right of publicity laws across many jurisdictions. In addition, we favor the enactment of a federal right of publicity law in the United States.

If you want to learn more about Right of Publicity, contact Member Operations.