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The complex issue of using a person's likeness in a creative work

If you've worked hard to make a name for yourself in the entertainment industry, then chances are you have the same problem that a lot of our Los Angeles readers have. You, like our readers, may now have a recognizable name or face and have concerns that other people might use it to bolster their own success. You may even have a number of legal questions you might not readily have answers to, which is what may have caused you to come to our site.

If you have questions about whether or not the law provides you protections against the unwanted use of your likeness, you're not alone. This is a common issue in the entertainment industry that generally requires the intervention of skilled attorneys who have particular knowledge of entertainment and intellectual property laws.

The reason an entertainment law attorney is oftentimes necessary in cases involving the misappropriation of someone else's likeness is because of the complexity of the law. Not only does a person have to contend with the law itself but how the courts have ruled in similar cases. Added together, these two aspects can easily complicate a case, which is not something the average person is equipped to handle effectively.

Over the years there have been a number of cases in which an individual or company has been accused of using a celebrity's likeness without their consent. In recent years, there was Lindsay Lohan's lawsuit against video game producers Take-Two and Rockstar Games, and the lawsuit against Activision Blizzard Inc for using Manuel Noriega's likeness in the videogame Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The outcomes of these cases can vary though depending on the jurisdiction and the laws that apply.

Here in our state, a person might cite Section 3344 of the California Civil Code, which allows an individual to seek damages from a party that has used the individual's likeness without their permission. It's worth pointing out though that compensation isn't always awarded to those who bring forward complaints. That's because the legal precedent for videogames is that they should be considered works of art and are therefore protected by the First Amendment.

It's because of this that misappropriation of likeness cases can turn contentious and may require additional help from attorneys and the courts. It's something we hope our readers will keep in mind, especially if they find themselves encountering a similar issue.

Sources:  Digital Trends, "Take-Two Fires Back at Lindsay Lohan's Expanded Grand Theft Auto Lawsuit," Will Fulton, Dec. 1, 2014

Reuters, "Judge dismisses Noriega case against Activision over videogame," Andrew Chung, Oct. 28, 2014

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