NY Considers ‘Publicity’ Law Could Harm Reporting On Politicians And Celebrities

Kyle Perisic | Contributor

New York is considering legislation that would dramatically change the way journalists report individuals’ names, making names effectively the same as property, a digital right group says.

The bill would “dramatically expand New York’s right of publicity, making it a property right that can be passed on to your heirs – even if you aren’t a New York resident,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said on Friday in a public statement.

It would make it illegal to report on someone, like a celebrity or a politician according to EFF. (RELATED: EFF Defeats Patent Troll’s Podcast Lawsuit That Silenced Adam Carolla)

“Celebrities have brought right of publicity cases against moviesrap lyricsmagazine features, and computer games. The right of publicity has even been invoked to silence criticism of celebrities,” EFF claims.

“The right of publicity is an offshoot of state privacy law that gives a person the right to limit the public use of her name, likeness, or identity for commercial purposes. A limited version of this right makes sense—for example, allowing you to stop a company falsely claiming that you endorse its products,” EFF added. “But the right of publicity has been expanded in recent years thanks to misguided legislation and court decisions.”

“If enacted, this legislation would have significant impact on the expressive rights of individuals, activists, journalists, and companies around the United States,” EFF wrote in a public memo to the New York state assembly, asking lawmakers not to support the bill.

The bill, A08155, is sponsored by Democrat Joseph Morelle and first introduced in the state legislature on May 31, 2017.

It “[e]stablishes the right of privacy and the right of publicity for both living and deceased individuals; provides that an individual’s persona is the personal property of the individual and is freely transferable and descendible; provides for the registration with the department of state of such rights of a deceased individual; and that the use of a digital replica for purposes of trade within an expressive work shall be a violation,” according to the bill’s summary.

Morelle received negative press coverage on May 23 for making an “insensitive comment” about a rape case in 2001, for which he later apologized in a statement, Democrat and Chronicle reported.

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