Protecting Your Name, Image, or Likeness through Right of Publicity

What is a "right of publicity"?

Right of publicity is a species of privacy law and a species of trademark law, and prevents the unauthorized use of your name, image, or likeness for commercial exploitation.

Is "right of publicity" only for famous people?

While it is most often used by celebrities and entertainers, the right of publicity is possessed by each individual. The difficulty for non-celebrities regarding enforcement comes down to damages, as most non-celebrities are not significantly damaged by such commercial uses of their name/image/likeness (NIL).

With that said, litigation involving the alleged violation by the NCAA, EA Sports, and the Collegiate Licensing Company of the right of publicity of current and former NCAA athletes largely involves athletes that are not known at all or on a small scale. And to date, one litigation matter has settled and has spurred development and discussion of stipend pools for NCAA athletes.

One other example includes comedianne and television talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Last February, her show included the use of an advertisement for a real estate agent with an unusual name ("Ti-Ti" pronounced "Tee-Tee"). Although intended to be humorous, the show and DeGeneres purposefully misprounced the name as a homophone of the slang term for "breasts" and displayed the agent's phone number. The agent claims she has received over 100 harrassing phone calls related to the unwanted publication. The case has not yet been resolved.