Saturday, August 03, 2019

Reason magazine has a useful video on right of publicity and "unauthorized biographies"



Eugene Volokh, First Amendment law professor at UCLA, provides Reason TV useful practical advice forum on writing books or making movies about other people (even) without their permission.


The “right of publicity” of a public figure would not prevent the making of an “unauthorized biography” by, for example, a new author.  It would preclude claiming the person’s endorsement of the book.

Volokh gives some outlier cases involving comic books (which seem a bit more jealously guarded, maybe because of the political influence of big entertainment companies like Marvel) and fantasy sports leagues on the Internet.  The latter reminds me of a fantasy sports “league” I and neighborhood kids formed in the 1950s, in an era where there was a lot more outdoor play and physical creativity (like making cardboard stadiums and real whiffleball fields with appropriate outfield fences).

Laws may be different in Europe, where “the right to be forgotten” plays in. 
   
It's also important to ponder, in the Internet age of social media and search engines, who has the "right" to claim to be a public figure if he wants to be. (If you claim it, then it is harder for you to win a libel case.  And what it you are an "accidental" public figure like one of the Covington kids?) 
    
I’ve had maybe three times when people asked me not to name them on my websites, where search engines would find them.  In one case, I removed a name from a footnote file of the image of my first DADT book (1997, 2000) but it cannot be removed from the book itself. There is a practical issue that obscure authors could make otherwise less visible people “famous” because of search engines and this issue has been around since Web 1.0. 

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