Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff owned the rights to an exclusive license to exploit Elvis Presley. On Presley’s death, Defendant produced a poster of Presley. Plaintiff sued Defendant for commercial appropriation.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The death of a party does not preclude any action for the right of publicity for that person’s identity.
The writer would probably uphold a descendible right of publicity, were he serving on the Tennessee Supreme Court, and perhaps if he served on the Sixth Circuit when Memphis Development was decided.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Does the death of a party preclude any action for the right of publicity for that person’s identity?
Held. No. Judgment affirmed.
* The death of a party does not preclude any action for the right of publicity for that person’s identity. There is no doubt that Plaintiff owned an exclusive right to print, publish and distribute Elvis Presley’s name and likeness. To hold that the right did not survive Presley’s death, would be to grant competitors of Plaintiff, such as Defendant, a windfall in the form of profits from the use of Presley’s name and likeness.
* Defendant’s contention that the poster is privileged as a newsworthy event is without merit because it is a commercial exploitation of Presley’s death.
Discussion. The right to publicity survives