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Appropriation of Name or Likeness

15 January, 2016 - 09:31

The earliest privacy interest recognized by the courts was appropriation of name or likeness: someone else placing your photograph on a billboard or cereal box as a model or using your name as endorsing a product or in the product name. A New York statute makes it a misdemeanor to use the name, portrait, or picture of any person for advertising purposes or for the purposes of trade (business) without first obtaining written consent. The law also permits the aggrieved person to sue and to recover damages for unauthorized profits and also to have the court enjoin (judicially block) any further unauthorized use of the plaintiff’s name, likeness, or image. This is particularly useful to celebrities.

Because the publishing and advertising industries are concentrated heavily in New York, the statute plays an important part in advertising decisions made throughout the country. Deciding what “commercial” or “trade” purposes are is not always easy. Thus a newsmagazine may use a baseball player’s picture on its cover without first obtaining written permission, but a chocolate manufacturer could not put the player’s picture on a candy wrapper without consent.