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Supreme Court will not hear Hustler's right-of-publicity appeal

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  1. Libel and Privacy
The Supreme Court on Monday said a lawsuit filed against Hustler magazine by the family of a deceased professional wrestler…

The Supreme Court on Monday said a lawsuit filed against Hustler magazine by the family of a deceased professional wrestler can proceed and that it will not hear the magazine’s appeal.

At issue in LFP Publishing Group, LLC v. Maureen Toffoloni was whether the magazine’s use of nude photos to illustrate a story about Nancy Benoit, a model and wrestler who was killed, along with her young son, by her WWE wrestler husband Chris Benoit in 2007, was for news or commercial purposes. Nancy Benoit’s mother, Maureen Toffoloni, sued Hustler after it ran the 20-year-old nude photos.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta (3rd Cir.) last year reversed a district court’s decision that the photos were a "legitimate matter of public interest and concern" and found that the publishing company violated the wrestler’s family’s right-of-publicity interests, which is an individual’s right to prevent the commercial use of his or her image for advertising purposes. 

In today’s order, the Court accepted friend-of-the-court briefs from The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Society for Professional Journalists, as well as the First Amendment Lawyers Association. The briefs asked the court to hear the case and clarify that right-of-publicity claims should not apply to newsworthy photographs. Because of the Supreme Court’s denial of the appeal, the Court of Appeals opinion will stand.