Home > Uncategorized > NYT tells us about more IP nonsense ripoffs: post-death rights to exploit famous people's names+likenesses

NYT tells us about more IP nonsense ripoffs: post-death rights to exploit famous people's names+likenesses

Below is an excerpt of an interesting recent NYT piece by Ray D. Madoff, a professor at Boston College Law School and author of “Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the American Dead.”

The New Grave Robbers

CAN a wild wig and a bushy mustache be packaged and called an Albert Einstein costume? According to Hebrew University of Jerusalem and its American marketing agent, the answer is no — at least not without permission. The university says that when it inherited Einstein’s estate, the bequest included ownership of Einstein’s very identity, giving it exclusive legal control over who could use Einstein’s name and image, and at what cost.

Einstein is not the only example. While we might think of people like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., George Patton, Rosa Parks, Frank Lloyd Wright and Babe Ruth as part of our cultural heritage, available for all to use, the identities of each of them, and thousands more, are claimed as private property, usable only with permission and for a fee.

This phenomenon is fairly recent — and it’s getting out of control. 

Sadly, Madoff naively thinks that the answer to the problem is a Federal ‘solution’, as if that will rein in rather than give free rein to abuses; copyright, patents and trademarks, anyone? 

Yet, because these are issues of state law, the litigation has not brought clarity on a national level.

Congress should step in and enact a federal right of publicity. In doing so, it should establish clear First Amendment protections and set forth a relatively short term for the right of publicity to survive death (perhaps 10 years).

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  1. TokyoTom
    March 28th, 2011 at 16:40 | #1

    Stephan, don’t be a meat-head. I’m fully in favor of both ‘principled’ and non-principled opposition to STATE IP.

    It’s just that I can’t resist standing up to your continued suggestions that your ‘principles’ would rule out PRIVATE IP. Without a state, people would still value, invest in and protect information, and would apply our traditional apnoply of moral suasion and sanction in doing so.



    PS: It’s late and I’m preoccupied. I’ll circle ’round later to your unwillingness to join me in trying to put a halt to excesses of those government-licensed machines that are destroying Hayek’s “market morals” – and using IP to rip us off.

  2. nskinsella
    March 28th, 2011 at 16:00 | #2

    Wait, but aren’t you opposed to principle opposition to IP law?

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