What Is the Right of Publicity (and Are You Violating It)?
Is there a reference to your company’s notable clients on your website, or do your company’s social media posts include the names or images of individuals? If so, you may be violating their right of publicity.
The right of publicity allows an individual to prevent the use of his or her identity for commercial purposes without permission. “Identity” can include the individual’s name, voice, image, or likeness. And “commercial purposes” under Florida law is an uncertain standard.
Florida’s right of publicity is relatively broad. Some states only allow “celebrities” to bring a claim, and some states only allow living persons to bring a claim. Florida gives all individuals, regardless of their celebrity status, the right to bring a lawsuit, and Florida law extends its statutory publicity right for 40 years after an individual’s death.
One area where right of publicity issues arise often is social media. If your social media posts include the names or images of individuals, it is important to consider whether their consent is required. Some Florida cases have held companies liable when using others’ likenesses in Facebook posts to promote their company or event. These recent cases have warned against the potential suggestion of any type of endorsement (without permission) in online posts by businesses.
The right of publicity is a little-known, but very powerful, right. In today’s increasingly digital society, it is crucial to consider the right of publicity and whether consent may be needed before using another person’s name or likeness in connection with your business.
Elizabeth M. Stamoulis