Fame pays


Fame pays. Today we’ll talk about valuing the Right of Publicity.  A celebrity’s name, image, or likeness can have great value.  For example, in 2005, Priscilla Presley sold the right to use Elvis’ name for 114 million dollars.  The next year, the same company, CKX, Inc., licensed the right to use Mahomed Ali’s name for 50 million dollars.  Now if someone were to use Mahomed Ali’s name or Elvis Presley’s name without permission, those damages would be relatively easy to prove because they’ve already been quantified by a company.  But California recognizes that that’s not always the case and its set up in their statute elements that you can recover.  The first thing if someone exploits your name, image, or likeness without your permission you can recover actual damages if there are any.  So, for a celebrity, it would be their appearance fee.  The normal fee that they would charge for use of their name or likeness in associated with a product or service.  But if there are not any actual damages, in the case of a non-celebrity or a private person, California permits 750 dollars per use.  The second element of damages would be profits from unauthorized use to the extent that that isn’t included in the actual damages.  So, the injured party, the person whose name image or likeness has been used, only has to show the gross revenue received from the company or individual using their name.  The burden has now shifted to the defendant, the company who’s been sued, to show their expenses.  And to show what their costs are that should be deducted from those gross revenues.  So that is a huge deterrent effect.  Plus, you are entitled to recover your attorney’s fees and costs.  And this aids the non-celebrity or someone who would otherwise not be able to afford to enforce their rights in a lawsuit against the defendant.  And finally, your entitled to recover, in appropriate instances, punitive damages.  Again, another deterrent effect to someone appropriating your name image or likeness.  In our next video, we will talk about the value of everlasting fame. 



Jon Pfeiffer is an experienced entertainment and copyright trial attorney practicing in Santa Monica. Jon is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California where he teaches Media Law. COM 570 covers First Amendment issues as well as copyright, defamation and privacy.

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