The private equity firm that purchased a controlling share in the intellectual property rights pertaining to Bob Marley is predicting that gross revenue associated with Bob Marley could surpass $1 billion by 2012.
The revenue predictions are based on pending deals featuring Bob Marley in the electronics, video game, beverage and skin care product categories. It also is interesting to note that this firm, Hilco Consumer Capital, has also announced its first-phase plan to crack down on unauthorized uses of Bob Marley’s name, image and likeness. In a down economy, pursuit of unauthorized uses coupled with the potential of litigation can be an effective supplement to the accounts receivable column.
If the estimates ring true, the reported acquisition price of $20 million will prove to have been a good investment. Here is a link to the story:
In the latest entry of intellectual property owners suing video game manufacturers, the band No Doubt filed a lawsuit against Activision earlier this month. The suit is based on the band’s objection to the use of the band members as avatars which game users can use to perform songs other than the band’s own material. The suit specifically references the possibility of the band’s front person, Gwen Stefani, being made to perform the Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Woman, the lyrics of which reportedly are offensive to Stefani.
Regular readers of http://www.rightofpublicity.com may recall the suit filed by Courtney Love against Activision, over the potential use of Kurt Cobain being made to perform music that Cobain would have objected to on artistic grounds.
An interesting twist to the No Doubt case is that the band had a contract with Activision for certain uses of the band and its music. Apparently the dispute, then, is about the other uses a game player can make of the No Doubt characters. Questions that the lawsuit will surely tackle include whether the use by Activision constitutes a breach of contract, and whether the use may somehow be defensible as a fair use or other non-infringing use of the No Doubt band members.
Recent draft right of publicity legislation reflects the video game industry’s lobbying efforts to make disputes such as the No Doubt lawsuit a thing of the past. In an effort to align video games with other statutorily-exempted uses, the lobbyists for the video game industry would like video games to be considered a protected medium and not subject to liability for right of publicity claims.
Here is a link to one of many articles reporting the story: http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/61134
As proof that the Right of Publicity is an inexhaustible source of seemingly unlikely scenarios, Time Magazine has recently reported on a gourmet “Mandela Burger” offered by a cafe in Copenhagen, named after Nelson Mandela.
Significantly, what is not articulated in the Time coverage is that the Cafe itself is named Cafe Mandela. As a result, the issue of whether such use infringes upon Nelson Mandela’s rights could encompass the entire establishment, and not just the $24 burger on the menu. If a “Mandela Burger” is an actionable violation, so too is “Cafe Mandela.”
This situation could raise potential issues concerning the recognition of publicity rights or their equivalent by various nations. For example, Mandela and his Foundation are based in South Africa, and the cafe is based in Denmark. Mandela, at 91, is still very much alive, so there is not an issue as to whether the Right of Publicity would be recognized in a post-mortem capacity. Following UK law, South Africa is not likely to interpret publicity-style rights favorably after the individual is deceased since the UK does not recognize post-mortem publicity rights. Other factors, such as trademark, could provide an alternative basis under the right circumstances.
As a practical matter, this might be one of those issues that is ignored by Mandela’s advisors, although the Time report indicates that Mandela’s advisors increasingly are taking action against unauthorized use of his name.
For example, Republic of the Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso included in his autobiography, Straight Speaking for Africa, an excerpt of a speech Mandela gave. The alleged Mandela quote praises Nguesso as “not only one of our great African leaders…but also one of those who gave their unconditional support to our fighters’ demand for freedom, and who worked tirelessly to free oppressed peoples from their chains and help restore their dignity and hope.”
Mandela’s Foundation denies that Mandela read Nguesso’s book, much less endorsed it. “We condemn this brazen abuse of Mr. Mandela’s name” said the Foundation in a statement.
Whether or not there is a viable cause of action based on Nelson Mandela’s Right of Publicity interests, I’d say $24 for Mandela burger should be illegal in any jurisdiction.
Here’s a link to the Time story: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1933177,00.html?xid=newsletter-daily