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A celebrity's right of publicity: What is that?

A writer in a recent media article focused upon the publicity-related prerogatives of high-profile public figures states that, "At 50 paces, an image of Prince on a purple poster would obviously be of him."

Adds that columnist: "Think of the sales potential."

A lot of people have. Likewise, they did in the wake of Marilyn Monroe's passing, as well as following the deaths of James Dean, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Michael Jackson and many other entertainment icons.

And the reason is simple, to wit: There is money -- indeed, lots of coin -- connected to any products and merchandise linked with high-recognition individuals.

A central thrust of the above-cited writer in his piece on the Purple One is on the so-called "right of publicity" accorded to an individual or his/her heirs and estate regarding the use of that person's name and likeness.

That right is obviously important during a celebrity's life, but it is also -- and especially in the case of a truly outsized figure like Prince, Elvis or Michael Jackson -- important following death.

Because, well, there are many people who, absent a law restricting them from acting, would readily produce high numbers of the aforementioned purple posters and other artist-related paraphernalia in attempts to commercially capitalize on another individual's fame.

And their exploitation would harm that artist's estate, unless it was protected by legislation barring unlawful use.

As noted in an online primer, California has a relatively well-developed right of publicity law that seeks to commercially protect well-known figures and their representatives. It provides for a legal right of action under both statutory and common law.

Questions regarding the right of publicity in California can be directed to an experienced entertainment law attorney with a proven record of representation on behalf of entertainers and other well-known figures in the state.

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