Right of publicity & invasion of privacy claims often intersect and overlap, depending on the circumstances of the particular case. California’s privacy laws apply broadly to everyone. When someone else uses your name, image, voice, or other aspect of your identity without permission, they may be violating your right to privacy. Although celebrities do relinquish some of their privacy rights by virtue of being in the public eye, they do not surrender their publicity rights under either California or federal law. Whether you are a celebrity or a non-celebrity, you have the right to keep others from exploiting your image or likeness for commercial purposes.
To learn more about the differences between right of publicity claims and invasion of privacy claims, keep reading this blog.
Publicity Rights vs. Privacy Rights in California
The right of publicity falls into the category of “intellectual property rights” that are protected by both state and federal law. Rights of publicity are similar to something known as an invasion of privacy claim, which is a legal claim that seeks to prevent anyone from interfering with your personal communications or disclosing personal information about you to others.
There are important differences between publicity rights and privacy rights. For instance, an individual’s publicity rights include their image, photo, name, voice, and likeness, while an individual’s privacy rights typically extend to their name or likeness. Additionally, publicity rights are usually limited to uses that involve advertisements or sales from which the defendant derives a commercial benefit.
Statute of Limitations
There is also an extended statutory time period for right of publicity claims in California, with plaintiffs having a post-mortem right under Cal. Civ. Code Section 3344.1 to bring a claim on behalf of a deceased person’s likeness for another 70 years after their death.
While the damages in a right of publicity case necessarily concern commercial losses suffered by the plaintiff when their likeness is used without authorization, the right of privacy typically concerns emotional distress suffered by the plaintiff when their private affairs or information are shared without permission.
Defamation Claims and the Right of Publicity
A related law that is often cited in these cases is the law against defamation, which prohibits anyone from making disparaging or otherwise defamatory statements about you in certain circumstances.
Defamation claims differ from right of publicity claims primarily when it comes to the truthfulness of the information that is disclosed to the public. When the information about the plaintiff is true, the appropriate legal action is probably a lawsuit for right of publicity misappropriation since the defendant is essentially stealing the plaintiff’s identity. By contrast, when the information about the plaintiff is false, then a claim for defamation of character may be appropriate since the defendant is possibly causing harm by lying about the plaintiff.
California Right of Publicity Claims
What about more traditional right of publicity claims that don’t involve privacy rights? A right of publicity gives you legal control over how certain personal aspects are used by others to promote their goods or services. These aspects that qualify for protection under the law include your name, image, voice, and likeness.
California’s publicity rights law recognizes the inherent commercial value in the average person’s likeness. Once that value has been exploited for a financial benefit, then the person to whom it belongs may have a cause of action to take legal action when someone infringes on their likeness. This means that the plaintiff in a California right of publicity lawsuit needs to establish that they have attempted to benefit financially from their likeness at some point before the defendant tried to do the same.
Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Right of Publicity Lawyer
In an invasion of privacy case that involves the right of publicity, you are going to want to be represented by a lawyer who has a firm grasp of both intellectual property law and internet law. The Los Angeles intellectual property attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP have extensive experience litigating cases involving right of publicity law, privacy law, and trademark claims. We can help you decide the most appropriate next step in your case.