Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is using politicians' speech to sell cars a right of publicity violation?

The TV ad described and linked to in this Detroit Free Press article (which I can't seem to embed) raises some very interesting and I think difficult right of publicity issues. The one-minute spot for a Dearborn, Michigan auto dealer includes clips of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) criticizing, and President Obama praising, the US auto industry. Its purpose is obviously commercial: to sell cars. Does Shelby have a right of publicity or Lanham Act claim? Does Obama? What if the person lauding US cars wasn't Obama, but Brad Pitt? Different answer? Keep in mind that most states' right of publicity statutes and common law standards are triggered by a mere "commercial use" of a person's likeness--no "false" endorsement or affiliation required.

(h/t The Hill, which links to a couple other similar ads from the dealership.)

1 comment:

  1. I thought public comments from politicians were in the public domain. I recently downloaded Martin Luther Kings "I have a dream" on LimeWire and I don't think I broke any rules in doing that. So if these comments and speeches are indeed in the public domain, I see no probem in using them in ads. Is this correct?


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