Image Rights

I'm sure many of you are either excited or tired of hearing about the World Cup. Soccer is big in my house and this past week we saw the documentary "Nossa Chape" about the fatal plane crash that carried the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense. Towards the end the wives were stating they would sue the club for the image rights of their deceased husbands. I found that topic to be very complicated for both parties.

What are image rights? How do you determine that once the person or the artist (picture of a picture) is deceased? How does the Copyright offices handle violations in the Web?

The U.S. Copyright Act gives the following rights to copyright owners of images:

  • reproduce the image
  • prepare new images and other works based on the original image
  • distribute copies of the image to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
  • display the image in public

Furthermore, I found out that there is a Digital Millennium Copyright Act. "Your content (including a blog post or a photographed image) is protected the moment it's published, even if it's on a personal blog." Find out more here.

"There are state laws called "right of publicity" that states have extended after the death of the celebrity, which allows deceased celebrities estate, such as Michael Jacksons to make $75 million dollars last year (Rothman)." It gets really complicated, but it all has to do with wills and who owns their estate. In regards to the Brazilian deceased members, the information on their signed contract with the club is what would probably implicate the case.

The first state to pass a bill in regards to deceased celebrities was California. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law in 2007 what critics call "The Dead Celebrities Bill" regarding image rights due to the lengthy court battle over Marilyn Monroe's image, NPR reported. The ruling determined anybody was free to use the stars image, which Arnold and Sen. Sheila Kuehl found controversial.

According to a recent article from Reason, New York and Minnesota have "considered adding such rights". "Those who profit from the dead are not always the close, loved ones of the deceased that one might imagine." According to Forbes, there was even a licensing expo in Vegas last year that had booths of the "delebrities".

Thought this was an interesting topic as I was very touched by the soccer team documentary, but understood image rights to be a very complicated topic. After all these articles, my understanding is better but still very inquisitive on different situations. Wills are so important!




Additional Sources for Reading:

Here is another interesting article about images (art) and cryptocurrency. I started reading it, but honestly I got lost quick.

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