Your Face, is My Case: Personality Rights

Of all the TV attorneys out there, Jackie Chiles is my favorite. Close second, of course, is Denny Crane, but Jackie certainly takes the top prize. Jokes aside, the title of today’s post is “Your Face, is My Case,” because we’re talking about likeness and image rights, sometimes collectively referred to as “personality rights.”

From Wikipedia: “Personality rights, is the right of an individual to control the commercial use of one’s identity, such as name, image, likeness, or other unequivocal identifiers.” Let’s discuss some quick examples.

Little Example: If you’ve ever signed a “photo release” at your child’s school; or seen those signs at Six Flags that say, “You’re being recorded and we get to use your picture in our advertising” – “personality rights” are the reason why.

Contemporary, Lawyerly, Example: If you hear a bell ringing in your head, its probably because personality rights have been a hot button topic at the NCAA as it applies to collegiate athletes. With a Supreme Court ruling (NCAA v. Alston) earlier this summer that paved the way for student athletes to monetize their image and likeness without NCAA interference. (Prior to the ruling, student athletes were prohibited by the NCAA from receiving any compensation because of their role as an athlete [apart from scholarships]. According to the NCAA, that also included receiving any funds due to the licensing of their image or likeness – think, being featured in a State Farm commercial like Aaron Rodgers). However, no more! Student athletes are allowed to fully control their personality rights and make money licensing them.

More information here:

Nerd Example: Of course, I wanted the entire post to be this section – but alas – it was too hard to write an entire post about a video game. For anyone on the later end of the Millennial spectrum as I am (about to turn the corner on 35 here people!) – I know that the classic Nintendo 64 game 007 Golden Eye holds a special place in your heart. Consistently rated one of the best games for the console, fans have been clamoring for a remake\re-master\re-release of the game on a modern system to no avail. Why hasn’t it happened? Personality rights, naturally. Among all the parties that would have to consent to a remake (Nintendo, Rare Studios, Eon Entertainment, Activision, and others) the actors themselves would have to consent as well – why? Because…pixelated as they were…the actors’ faces are baked into the video game characters and they individually control their own personality rights.


GoldenEye 007 N64 footage offers glimpse of what might have been - CNET

Now, yes, these rights could have been contracted away already, and there are plenty of other reasons the remake never came to fruition (at the end of the day, personality rights probably were not what did the game in) – but this still serves as a great example of how\when personality rights come into play.

More information here:

Thanks for reading.

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