Integrating Law and Economics
Chapter 6: Publicity Rights and Consumer Rights
6.1 INTRODUCTION The right of publicity is the right of every human being to control the unauthorized use of her name, likeness or other index of personal identity for purposes of trade.1 Distinguishable from privacy rights that implicate the unauthorized disclosure of information on personal matters, publicity rights commonly appear in law when celebrities bring action for liability or damage against producers or advertisers for distributing commercial products or advertising messages that bear some representation of their public image. Publicity rights then implicate two deeply held but countervailing beliefs in American society. First, people must be able to use cultural images to communicate thoughts and concepts freely to one another. Second, individuals must be protected from actions that diminish their ability to invest money and effort in advancing in their chosen professions. Regarding the first point, both adaptive culture and efficient economy demand clear communications, which explains why dictionaries grow and why trademarks are necessary. The truth is that images in audio, video or text are compact and nuanced symbols that can be used to represent combinations of complex qualities. For example, particular buyers are grateful for the trademark Volvo instead of having to explain to spouses that they must search ‘customized auto lots for a seller of dependable Swedish cars for $40000 that are not ostentatious but are status symbols nonetheless’. Moreover, by having the ability to identify itself as the manufacturer of such cars, Volvo has greater incentive to invest and improve all of its automotive products.2 Celebrity...
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