The United States Supreme Court made big news in 2021 when it recognized “name, image and likeness” rights for college athletes. That decision has been a gamechanger in college sports.
It is also important to know, however, that more than half the states have passed laws recognizing at the state level a person’s “right of publicity.” This is an intellectual property right that allows someone to control the commercial use of their name, image and likeness. Louisiana is one of the states with such protections, having passed the Allen Toussaint Legacy Act in 2022.
What is the right of publicity?
The right of publicity acts as a special shield of sorts that protects your name, face and likeness from being used (or misused) without your permission. You have this right and so does everyone else. Whether you are famous or just rocking your everyday life at work, you may decide when and how you show yourself to the world.
Can I sue for a violation of this right?
Yes, of course. You can sue when someone uses your name, face or likeness without your permission and it causes harm. To make sure this is clear, let’s break it down into digestible pieces.
If someone puts your face on a product or in an ad without asking, that is most certainly wrong. You must agree before anyone can do this with your face, name or likeness.
What is the impact of putting your face, name, or likeness out there for people to see? If it is a product, did it harm your reputation? Did it make people think you were endorsing something that you did not endorse? If so, that is potentially a problem.
If someone uses your face, name or likeness in a commercial or to sell something and you did not agree to it, that plainly violates your right of (or to) publicity.
Whether you are famous or not, it does not matter. Everyone may protect themselves, and usually here are the steps you should take if you think someone is violating your right of publicity:
- Speak up: politely ask them to step and maybe they will realize their mistake.
- Get legal: If things get serious or the violation is severe or causes you harm, you can talk to a lawyer about what you can do about it. You can consult with a lawyer to determine if a violation has taken place and what steps you can take.
Remember, your name, face and likeness are yours and yours alone. The right of publicity is your shield against anyone who wants to or tries to use your face, name, or likeness for any reason, including profiting from you.