Brief Fact Summary. Defendant aired Plaintiff’s entire fifteen-second stunt on the news. Plaintiff sued Defendant for appropriation.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. False light is clearly a tort that protects reputation with the same overtones of mental distress as in defamation. In contrast, the right of publicity protects a proprietary interest of an individual in his act in part to encourage such entertainment.
Issue. Do the First and Fourteenth Amendments privilege Defendant to broadcast Plaintiff’s entire stunt without compensation?
Held. No. Judgment reversed.
* The broadcast of Plaintiff’s entire act on television poses a substantial threat to the economic value of that performance. The act is a product of Plaintiff’s own talents and energy, the end result of time, effort, and expense. Much of this economic value lies in the exclusive control over publicity of the performance. If the public can watch it on television, they will be less willing to see it at the fair. The effect of broadcasting is the equivalent of preventing Plaintiff from charging an admission fee.
* The differences between the torts of false light and publicity are significant. False light is clearly a tort that protects reputation with the same overtones of mental distress as in defamation. In contrast, the right of publicity protects a proprietary interest of an individual in his act in part to encourage such entertainment. This interest is closely analogous to the goals of patent and copyright law. Focusing on the right of the individual to reap the reward of his endeavors has little to do with protecting feelings or reputation. In false light cases, the only way to protect the interests involved is to attempt to minimize publication of the damaging matter. In right of publicity actions, the only question is who gets to do the publishing.
The Constitution does not prevent Ohio from making a similar choice here in deciding to protect the entertainer's incentive in order to encourage the production of this type of work.View Full Point of Law