Character in WOLF OF WALL STREET Does Not Violate Real Person’s Publicity Rights

By Jennifer E. Rothman
October 5, 2015

On September 30, 2015, a federal district court in New York dismissed a right of publicity claim brought by former Stratton Oakmont employee, Andrew Greene.  Greene was featured in convicted felon Jordan Belfort's memoir upon which the Martin Scorsese movie was based. The movie, however, did not use the plaintiff's name or likeness, but instead created an amalgamated character derived from several real individuals, including the plaintiff. The court therefore rejected Greene's claim because under New York’s privacy statute, N.Y. Civil Rights Law § 51, such claims are limited to uses of the actual name or likeness of an individual. Merely evoking the person’s identity is not sufficient to state a claim.  This treatment of the privacy-based right under New York law differs from the interpretation of right of publicity laws in some other states, notably under California's common law. See, e.g., White v. Samsung Electronics, 971 F.2d 1395 (9th Cir. 1992).  Because the court did not allow a persona-based claim, it did not have occasion to consider whether the privacy claim could proceed in the context of a movie.

Opinion in Greene v. Paramount Pictures (E.D.N.Y., Sept. 30, 2015)