Let us say that you have a picture of Michael Jackson that you took many years ago during his concert. Now, you are about to launch a new blog about your experience with the King of Pop. Can you take the picture of MJ and publish it to your article? Absolutely. You can do it because own the picture as well as the rights to publish it. However, you cannot use it for commercial ventures, like selling T-shirts and coffee mugs with MJ’s face printed on them.
In the past, celebrities do not have rights to publicity or personality. However, estates are already claiming rights that did not exist and the cases are working their way through court systems.
- Right to Publicity. Right to publicity or personality limits the use of celebrity images for commercial ventures. It recognizes the economic value of the dead celebrities photos in relation to their creativity and work. They have the right to exploit the value of their image as they see fit. Thus, using the images without permission violates their right to publicity or personality. The validity of the right can survive the death of an individual.
- Dead Celebrities Photos. Printing the images of deceased celebrities on T-shirts and other forms of commercial venture without permission is prohibited, especially if the right to publicity continues after the death of the star. Depending on the state, celebrities can pass their right to publicity to their surviving relatives. For instance, relatives of Michael Jackson have control over the merchandise that bears his name and image.
To avoid violating the right of publicity of dead celebrities, you must be careful about using their images, likeness, name, voice, or signature. Make sure you have permission before you use their image or likeness in connection with product packaging, advertising of products and services, and merchandise for sale. You should make sure have permission from all proper parties. You need to be careful when marketing – even your of own work – due to the right to publicity.
The right of publicity may survive the death of celebrities depending on the state. Currently, twelve states have the statuses where the right to publicity continues even after the death of celebrities. If the right is not recognized in your state, you can be on serious danger. You can be sued for unauthorized use of a deal celebrities photos in order to create a false endorsement or gain profit. Aside from the publicity right, the photos are also protected from using the image of the celebrity to adveretise a product false.
Do you need permission to use photos of deceased celebrities? Absolutely. These right are separate from copyright and protect the personal interest of the people represented.