Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back

In a post I quoted here, about the recent Marilyn Monroe decision (holding that her publicity rights had not survived her death), Anthony Falzone, director of Stanford's Fair Use Project, said, "Millions of licensing revenue stands to disappear under this decision. The beneficiaries of this windfall will not let that money go without a fight. So I expect to hear a lot more about this issue."

Well, that didn't take long. Legislation has been introduced in New York granting post-mortem publicity rights, including retroactively to anyone who died after 1938. The proposed bill is here. The New York Daily News has the story here. The AP story is here.

One of the co-sponsors of the bill is quoted here as saying, "The fact that unscrupulous quick buck artists can profiteer on a loophole in our law by selling insulting and degrading images of those who are deceased is shameful." It's hard to see what "loophole" he's referring to. The statute has always applied, unambiguosly, to "living persons" only. The Monroe decision was indeed a bombshell, but it was entirely consistent with existing New York law. Apparently something in the decision has led some lawmakers to conclude that Indiana had it right all along.