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Friday, January 08, 2010


Steve Hofer

My hometown is the headquarters of Curtis Management Group (now primarily known as CMG Worldwide), perhaps the biggest licensor of celebrity "images". I watched in horror as this company bragged about how it won court decision after court decision extending the right of publicity indefinitely. I noticed that the companies and individuals that they sued had no resources to fight. Effectively, CMG was arguing against empty chairs. They also engaged in what I call distant forum abuse, suing defendants where it is inconvenient or practically impossible to defend. I also noticed how CMG lobbied in state legislatures claiming huge economic advantages of a long-term right of publicity. The other side rarely had an advocate.

I agree with you, Paul, that the Right of Publicity can put free speech at risk. For example, when you can't market a biography of Martin Luther King without going through his estate, history is being censored.

In the last 25 years, I've seen how the right of publicity has grown from bootstrap roots of unfair appropriation of the image of a living person to a perpetual super-copyright for people living and dead. I believe that when the Constitution provided Congress the authority to secure the works of artists and inventors for a limited time, it was an implied endorsement that there should be no perpetual patents or copyrights. The right of publicity flies in the face of this policy.

Thanks to you and Public Citizen for all of your work on this and other issues.

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