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The Celebrities Rights Act
or Celebrity Rights Act
was passed in California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...
in 1985 and it extended the personality rights
"Personality rights" is a common or casual reference to the proper term of art "Right of Publicity". The Right of Publicity can be defined simply as the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness or other unequivocal aspects of one's identity...
for a celebrity to 70 years after his or her death. Previously, the 1979 Lugosi v. Universal Pictures
In Lugosi v. Universal Pictures, 603 P.2d 425 , the heirs of Béla Lugosi sued Universal Studios in 1966 for using his personality rights without the heirs' permission...
decision by the California Supreme Court held that Bela Lugosi
Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó , commonly known as Bela Lugosi, was a Hungarian actor of stage and screen. He was best known for having played Count Dracula in the Broadway play and subsequent film version, as well as having starred in several of Ed Wood's low budget films in the last years of his...
's personality rights could not pass to his heirs, as a copyright
Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...
would have. The court ruled that any rights of publicity, and rights to his image, terminated with Lugosi's death.
California Civil Code
The Civil Code of California is a collection of statutes for the State of California. The code is made up of statutes which govern the general obligations and rights of persons within the jurisdiction of California...
is for the publicity rights of living persons, while Civil Code section 3344.1
, known as the "Astaire
Fred Astaire was an American film and Broadway stage dancer, choreographer, singer and actor. His stage and subsequent film career spanned a total of 76 years, during which he made 31 musical films. He was named the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute...
Celebrity Image Protection Act," grants statutory post-mortem rights which prohibit the unsanctioned use of the "name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness on or in products, merchandise or goods" of any person. Similar laws have been enacted by 12 other states in the United States. http://www.studio-international.co.uk/reports/elvis.htm
Among the uses exempt from the Astaire act:
The largest personality rights licensing agency is The Roger Richman Agency
The Roger Richman Agency, Inc. was a licensing agency that specialised in personality rights. It licensed the use of the imagery, persona and likeness of various well known entertainment celebrities and historical personalities...
, which is owned by Corbis
Corbis Corporation is an American company, based in Seattle, Washington, that licenses the rights to photographs, footage and other visual media...
- In 1998 Princess Diana
Diana, Princess of Wales was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, whom she married on 29 July 1981, and an international charity and fundraising figure, as well as a preeminent celebrity of the late 20th century...
's estate sued the Franklin Mint
The Franklin Mint is a private corporation founded by Joseph Segel in 1964. The private mint operated from Wawa, Pennsylvania but that operation has now closed...
for selling products bearing her likeness. The lawsuit filed May 18, 1998 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles said the Franklin Mint "failed to obtain consent to use Princess Diana's identity and trademark ... and embarked on a campaign to profit from Princess Diana's death."
- Shaw Family Archives Ltd. v. CMG Worldwide, Inc., 486 F.Supp.2d 309 (S.D.N.Y., 2007) ruled on May 7, 2007 that in regard to Marilyn Monroe, because she died before California's Celebrity Rights Act was passed in 1985, and the state of New York does not recognize a right of publicity after the artist's death, her name, image, and voice are now in the public domain in the states of California and New York. By implication, they would also be in the public domain in any state that, at the time of Monroe's death in 1962, did not recognize a right of publicity that survived the artist's death. In response to that court ruling, California passed legislation that created descendible rights of publicity that last 70 years after death, retroactively for any person deceased after January 1, 1938. A similar law has failed in the New York Legislature
The New York State Legislature is the term often used to refer to the two houses that act as the state legislature of the U.S. state of New York. The New York Constitution does not designate an official term for the two houses together...
- Peter L. Felcher, and Edward L. Rubin; "The Descendibility of the Right of Publicity: Is There Commercial Life after Death?" The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 89, No. 6 (May, 1980), pp. 1125–1132