Right to publicity

Porco v. Lifetime Entertainment Services, LLC

October 6, 2016

Christopher Porco filed a right of publicity claim under New York Civil Rights Law Section 51, arguing that Lifetime's broadcast of a film about his crime was "substantially fictionalized" and for commercial purposes. The Reporters Committee focused on the fact that under the statute, Lifetime could only be held liable if it broadcast the film “for advertising or for purposes of trade.” Having such a narrow scope, Section 51 did not apply to the docudrama, which did not use the plaintiff’s likeness for either of these reasons but rather to describe an actual event of public interest.

Electronic Arts, Inc. v. Brown

April 18, 2016

Former NFL fullback James (Jim) Brown claims Electronic Arts violated his right of publicity after including his biographical and statistical information in Madden NFL, a video game that allows users to simulate NFL games and play as their favorite NFL players. The Reporters Committee, with eight other media organizations, filed an amicus brief in the California Court of Appeal arguing that the First Amendment shields EA's limited use of Brown's likeness in a constitutionally protected video game because it contains speech on matters of public interest and does not survive strict scrutiny as a content-based restriction. Brown's claims are also barred under California's public affairs exemption and applicable case law. Amici further contend EA's speech must be protected to prevent chilling effects on speech and encourage the news industry to continue evolving as technology advances.

Maloney v. T3Media

February 26, 2016

Two college basketball players assert that T3Media violated their rights of publicity after T3Media operated, with the approval of the NCAA, Paya.com, a website that allowed members of the public to view and purchase non-exclusive licenses to photographs copyrighted by the NCAA. In the amicus brief, which 22 organizations joined, the Reporters Committee argued that T3Media’s use of the photographs constituted speech fully protected by the First Amendment. Accordingly, we asserted that the Plaintiffs could not restrict the dissemination of the photographs without showing a narrowly tailored compelling state interest — a standard they could not satisfy by asserting publicity rights. The brief further argued that the right of publicity is best viewed as a doctrine designed to prevent the unauthorized use of an individual’s name or likeness in connection with the advertisement of a product, and is not designed to restrict the dissemination of noncommercial speech.

Appeals court throws out nearly $20 million jury award against Hustler Magazine

Rachel Bunn | Privacy | News | May 3, 2012
May 3, 2012

A federal court of appeals threw out an almost $20 million jury award to the family of Nancy Benoit who claimed Hustler Magazine violated their daughter's right of publicity by publishing nude photographs of her after she was killed by her husband, the professional wrestler Chris Benoit in a double murder-suicide.

Police reality show doesn't violate Ill. publicity statute

Rachel Costello | Newsgathering | Feature | March 4, 2011
March 4, 2011

A police reality show is protected under the First Amendment because airing an arrest is a matter of public concern, a federal court ruled earlier this week.