Who controls how one’s identity is used by others? This legal question, centuries old, demands greater scrutiny in the Internet age. Jennifer Rothman uses the right of publicitya little-known law, often wielded by celebritiesto answer that question, not just for the famous but for everyone. In challenging the conventional story of the right of publicity’s emergence, development, and justifications, Rothman shows how it transformed people into intellectual property, leading to a bizarre world in which you can lose ownership of your own identity. This shift and the right’s subsequent expansion undermine individual liberty and privacy, restrict free speech, and suppress artistic works.
The Right of Publicity traces the right’s origins back to the emergence of the right of privacy in the late 1800s. The central impetus for the adoption of privacy laws was to protect people from “wrongful publicity.” This privacy-based protection was not limited to anonymous private citizens but applied to famous actors, athletes, and politicians. Beginning in the 1950s, the right transformed into a fully transferable intellectual property right, generating a host of legal disputes, from control of dead celebrities like Prince, to the use of student athletes’ images by the NCAA, to lawsuits by users of Facebook and victims of revenge porn.
The right of publicity has lost its way. Rothman proposes returning the right to its origins and in the process reclaiming privacy for a public world.
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About the Author
Jennifer E. Rothman is Professor of Law and the Joseph Scott Fellow at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles.
Table of Contents
Part I The Big Bang
1 The Original "Right of Publicity" 11
2 From the Ashes of Privacy 30
3 A Star Is Born? 45
Part II The Inflationary Era
4 A Star Explodes 67
5 A Star Expands 87
Part III Dark Matter
6 The (In)alienable Right of Publicity 115
7 The Black Hole of the First Amendment 138
8 A Collision Course with Copyright 160
Epilogue: The Big Crunch 181