Child Star Chachi’s Lawsuit Against her Mother is DismissedBy Jennifer E. Rothman
January 8, 2016
Olivia “Chachi” Gonzales, 19, is best known for her appearance and victory on MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew” in 2011. Chachi designed her own dance apparel and started selling “Chachimomma” pants similar to ones that she made popular by wearing them on the TV show. While Chachi was a minor, Chachi’s mother, Guadalope Gonzales, allegedly filed to register a trademark for “Chachimomma” and made licensings deals using Chachi’s name and identity without Chachi's permission. Chachi’s complaint alleged violations of her right of publicity under California Civil Code § 3344, as well as claims for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and false advertising. After filing the complaint in July, Chachi may have made up with her mother because she failed to further pursue her claims. As a result, this week a federal district court in California dismissed her complaint for failure to prosecute.
Although the case looks like it will not proceed, it raises the very real concern of parents, especially of child stars, transfering their children’s rights of publicity to third-parties potentially in perpetuity. Brooke Shields complained of her mother’s authorizing both the taking and circulation of nude photos of her when she was a minor. Once Shields was an adult she could not reclaim these pictures or revoke her mother’s consent. The prospect that a fully transferable right exists in one’s name and likeness, and that a parent (or a third-party) could forever control a child’s image and name is chilling. I discuss such downsides to treating the right of publicity as fully alienable in more depth in the article The Inalienable Right of Publicity. At the very least, states that have adopted rights of publicity by statute should amend them to expressly limit the ability of parents and guardians to transfer rights in their children’s names and likeness to themselves or third-parties.