News & Commentary

Sacha Baron Cohen Sues Over Unauthorized Ad Campaign

July 16, 2021 2:31 pm
Solar ad
Earlier this week, film and television actor Sacha Baron Cohen and his company, Please You Can Touch, sued Solar Therapeutics in district court in Massachusetts for the unauthorized use of his likeness, Borat character, and the character's catch-phrase in a billboard advertisement for a cannabis company.  The complaint sets forth...

Coca-Cola Wins Round II as California Appellate Court Reverses Massive Jury Award

July 9, 2021 10:17 pm
The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District reversed an almost $10 million jury award against Coca-Cola in Hansen v. Coca-Cola Company in a recent unpublished decision. The dispute arises out of the Hansen’s sodas and juice brand (now owned by Coca-Cola) and a trust composed of...

Win for Free Speech and Docudramas in New York

June 30, 2021 7:25 pm
Last week a New York appellate court granted the defendant’s summary judgment motion in Porco v. Lifetime Entertainment Services, the long-running dispute over Lifetime’s ripped-from-the-headlines docudrama Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story, which first aired in 2013.  This decision reverses the trial’s court’s alarming rejection of the defendant's...

Mixed Victory for Jackson Estate in Tax Court

May 18, 2021 11:49 pm
michael jackson estate right of publicity right of privacy tax litigation irs tax court decision publicity name and likeness rights
On May 3rd, the U.S. Tax Court issued the long-awaited decision in the long-running litigation over the estate taxes owed by the Michael Jackson estate. In a sweeping 253-page opinion (with additional appendices) the Tax Court, clearly cognizant that this opinion will likely be read by many more...

New York Governor Signs New Postmortem Right of Publicity Bill

December 8, 2020 6:59 pm
New York Postmortem Right of Publicity Bill Signed Governor Cuomo
On November 30th, 2020, the Governor of New York signed into law a new postmortem provision which for the first time will add a postmortem right to the state's law, lasting 40 years after death. This new law also addresses the unlawful dissemination and publication of  "sexually explicit...

The Third Circuit Upholds First Amendment Defense in Video Game Case

October 2, 2020 4:51 pm
hamilton speight right of publicity first amendment gears of war third circuit
In a nonprecedential opinion the Third Circuit held that the First Amendment insulates the makers of the video game Gears of War from a right of publicity claim. The case, Hamilton v. Speight, involves a right of publicity claim brought by the plaintiff, Lenwood Hamilton, who alleged that...

50 Cent’s Right of Publicity Claim Preempted by Copyright Law

August 21, 2020 9:05 pm
50 cent right of publicity rick ross renzel remix copyright preemption
Earlier this week, the Second Circuit, in an opinion penned by Judge Pierre Leval, held that a right of publicity claim by rap artist Curtis James Jackson III, better known as 50 Cent, was preempted by federal copyright law. The claim was brought under Connecticut law and arose...

New York Reintroduces Much Improved Postmortem Right of Publicity Bill

July 14, 2020 8:32 pm
new york legislature right of publicity bill
During its usual off-season, the New York legislature is revisiting its multi-year efforts to add new sections to its civil rights law and in particular to add a postmortem provision to state law. This latest version would add two sections to NY's Civil Rights Law,  what it dubs...

Pennsylvania District Court Holds Right of Publicity Claims Barred by Communications Decency Act Section 230

June 16, 2020 5:52 pm
Karen Hepp right of publicity pennsylvania privacy cda 230 communications decency act facebook
A federal district court in Pennsylvania granted Facebook, Imgur, and Reddit’s respective motions to dismiss claims that they had violated Karen Hepp’s common law and statutory rights of publicity under Pennsylvania law. The Court held her claims barred by the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”)'s Section 230, 47 U.S.C....

New York Trial Court Allows Right of Publicity Case to Proceed Against TV Docudrama

June 4, 2020 6:06 pm
Porco v. Lifetime, new york, right of publicity, summary judgment order, privacy
Once again a New York court has allowed Christopher Porco (hereinafter “Chris”) and his mother, Joan Porco, to proceed with their right of publicity claims brought under New York Civil Rights Law § 51 arising out of a Lifetime docudrama. Chris and Joan object to the use of...