Massachusetts

Massachusetts recognizes intrusion, private facts and misappropriation but has declined to determine whether to permit false light claims. Fox Tree v. Harte-Hanks Communications, Inc., 501 N.E.2d 519 (Mass. 1986). The state has a misappropriation statute. M.G.L. 214, § 3A.

Intrusion: A court prohibited the general distribution of a film shot at a state institution for the criminally insane because it portrayed identifiable inmates who were naked, or showed painful aspects of mental disease. The filmmaker also failed to obtain valid releases from all individuals portrayed. The court ruled, however, that the film could be shown to audiences with a professional interest in rehabilitation. Massachusetts v. Wiseman, 249 N.E.2d 610 (Mass.), cert. denied, 398 U.S. 960 (1969).

Private Facts: The telecast of a person’s arrest in a murder investigation was not a public disclosure of private facts because the arrest was a matter of public interest. Jones v. Taibbi, 512 N.E.2d 260 (Mass. 1987).

False Light: A photograph of a normal child taken for a newspaper’s Christmas charity drive and republished two years later as an illustration for an article on mentally retarded children did not place the child in a false light because he was not identifiable from the photo or accompanying article. Brauer v. Globe Newspaper Co., 217 N.E.2d 736 (Mass. 1966).

A photograph of people standing in line for unemployment checks is protected, even if one of the people pictured was there as an interpreter and not to pick up a check, because the photograph was taken in a public place and was newsworthy. Cefalu v. Globe Newspaper Co., 391 N.E.2d 935 (Mass. App. Ct. 1979), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1060 (1980).

Publishing a stock photo of a fisherman with an article about organized crime at fish markets might damage the reputation of the fisherman pictured, allowing his false light claim to go forward. Morrell v. Forbes, 603 F.Supp. 1305 (D. Mass. 1985).

Misappropriation: The photograph of a woman surrounded by a party scene, which accompanied an article on modern sexual mores called “After the Sexual Revolution,” was not misappropriation because the photo was published as sociological commentary, not to solicit sales of the magazine. Tropeano v. Atlantic Monthly, 400 N.E.2d 847 (Mass. 1980).