Advertisers, Other Groups Fight Proposal Expanding Celebrities' Right To Sue

The Association of National Advertisers and other groups are voicing concern over a New York proposed law that would allow the heirs of deceased celebrities to sue over the commercial use of their name or images.

The measure, which was first proposed last year, would authorize suits against marketers, broadcasters and other media outlets that use names, photos or likenesses of people without their consent. It would apply even if people have never lived in the state. The measure also enables people's heirs to be able to sue for 40 years, provided they pay $100 to register with the New York Secretary of State.

New York currently allows only living celebrities to sue over the commercial use of their names or photos.

"As currently drafted, the legislation could cause serious harm to our members in the marketing and advertising community," the ANA said Friday in a letter to New York lawmakers.



The organization raises several concerns about the proposal, including that it would not only cover people's names and images, but also their "personas."

The ANA says this term is problematic. "For purposes of the registry, how would a marketer be able to ascertain the “persona” of the individual that would be covered? The complications and vagaries of these terms when applied to a post-mortem right and a registry raise serious concerns and uncertainties for marketer," the organization writes.

The proposed law has also drawn opposition from a broad array of other groups, including the Motion Picture Association of America, New York State Broadcasters Association, Association of Magazine Media, and civil rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"If enacted, this legislation would have significant impact on the expressive rights of individuals, activists, journalists, and companies around the United States," the EFF said Friday in a letter to New York lawmakers.

The MPAA adds that the current version of the bill is unconstitutional, because it would limit filmakers' ability "to tell stories about and inspired by real people and events."

The organization cites Citizen Kane, Snowden, Ray and The Social Network as examples of movies inspired by or based on real people.

"Filmmakers have the right under the First Amendment and existing New York case law to tell these stories, whether or not they have obtained consent from their subjects," the MPAA writes.

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