Hollywood Reporter article on movie rights and Right of Publicity of criminals, includes Luminary Group’s Jonathan Faber commentary
Interesting article in today’s The Hollywood Reporter. The article considers the two persons believed to be behind the Boston Marathon bombing, and the possibility of a movie depiction of these events. I do not think such a project is actually underway; rather, I understand the article simply to be exploring these compelling questions.
The recent film Zero Dark Thirty raises similar, though perhaps not identical issues. For my contribution to the article, I emphasized that I do not expect that the surviving suspect in custody (Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) could stop a movie from being made about him by using a Right of Publicity argument, due to a combining of reasons involving public interest, newsworthiness, Son of Sam provisions, and statutory exemptions for certain kinds of use that appear in most forms of Right of Publicity legislation.
When production companies seek out life story rights, it is almost always (in my experience) those in which the blessing or involvement of the family is desired and beneficial to the project overall. There would, of course, be counterpoints, but it is nonetheless a useful starting point in grappling with the question raised by Eriq Gardner in The Hollywood Reporter piece.
Here is a link to the article: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/boston-bombing-movie-why-dzhokhar-444026
Thanks to a stipulated settlement read into the record on February 3, 2012 in a lawsuit brought by the Marlon Brando Estate against Ashley Furniture, we have a rare example of a publicly-disclosed settlement amount. Brando’s Estate is settling its claims against Ashley Furniture for $356,000, including an allocation for attorney’s fees. The dispute was over a furniture line designated as “Brando.”
There is a similar lawsuit still in process involving Humphrey Bogart and a “Bogart” couch offered by Ashley Furniture. In that case, Ashley Furniture reportedly argued that it “was not diluting a generic name” and sought a declaration that the Right of Publicity can’t be applied to the name of a couch.
I would agree with Ashley Furniture that they aren’t diluting a generic name, because neither Brando nor Bogart can be said to be generic names. Even without use of their first names, each name is clearly identifiable as Marlon Brando and Humphrey Bogart. When taken in context, with a Brando product next to a Bogart product, there really can be no reasonable argument that those names aren’t identifying Marlon Brando and Humphrey Bogart.
The idea that the Right of Publicity should somehow not apply to the name of a couch would be laughable if it wasn’t the kind of argument that seems to be increasingly employed by those caught infringing.
Here is a link to Eriq Gardner’s write-up in The Hollywood Reporter: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/marlon-brando-ashley-furniture-lawsuit-couch-humphry-bogart-287389