PDA

View Full Version : The Dead Celebs Bill



AnneMarble
06-21-2007, 05:14 PM
According to MediaBistro (http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/publishing/authors_guild_denounces_dead_celebs_bill_61442.asp ), the Authors Guild has denounced a "Dead Celebs" bill brought up in New York State. This bill would allow allow descendants of dead celebrities (if they died after 1938) the right to block the use of images of that person. This is also covered (in more depth) in Publisher's Weekly (http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6454253.html).

At first glance, that sounds like a good idea. Sure, let's protect the family from seeing their dead relative exploied by other people, ending up on cereal boxes or T-shirts or whatever. On the other hand, how far do these rights go? Experts argue that this law could be disastrous for publishers, not to mention historians, biographers, and even novelists (as literary works are not exempted).

Also, I've seen too many cases where the estate wields that power a little too strongly. Some people have accused the estate of pianist Glenn Gould (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_Gould) of being too eager to control the use of Glenn Gould's images. For example, they sued a photographer who tried to put out a book of photographs of the young Glenn Gould, although he owned the rights to the photos, and reportedly, they have put hurdles in front of biographers who want to write about GG. Blech.

Novelhistorian
06-22-2007, 03:18 AM
I'm with you. I remember it was hard enough tracking down--or trying to track down--the descendants of every person whose archives I quoted to obtain their permission. If I had to worry about being sued just because I'd quoted one of them as having said he liked eggs for breakfast, and wasn't that insulting, that would have been ridiculous.

I suspect that this law has reached the New York legislature because a powerful but undoubtedly small lobby has paid for it, much as the Mickey Mouse lobby persuaded Congress to change the copyright law. But I admit that I don't know the origin, and I defer to AW's resident legal experts to tell me I'm wrong.

It seems like hubris for celebrities' families to attempt to control the reputation of their famous ancestor. The workings of time on a good (or bad) name shouldn't be for sale.

AnneMarble
06-22-2007, 03:40 AM
I'm with you. I remember it was hard enough tracking down--or trying to track down--the descendants of every person whose archives I quoted to obtain their permission. If I had to worry about being sued just because I'd quoted one of them as having said he liked eggs for breakfast, and wasn't that insulting, that would have been ridiculous.
And you just might have to do that as under that bill, even their names are protected. Does that sound like a chilling effect to you? :rolleyes:


I suspect that this law has reached the New York legislature because a powerful but undoubtedly small lobby has paid for it, much as the Mickey Mouse lobby persuaded Congress to change the copyright law. But I admit that I don't know the origin, and I defer to AW's resident legal experts to tell me I'm wrong.
I think you might have something there. The article said that the bill was "already being supported by some high profile celebrities like Al Pacino and Yoko Ono." OK, I can understand that Yoko doesn't want people coming out with more biographies claiming they had tantric sex with John Lennon. But what about legitimate biographers, particularly if she might disagree with them. (And it's gonna happen.)


It seems like hubris for celebrities' families to attempt to control the reputation of their famous ancestor. The workings of time on a good (or bad) name shouldn't be for sale.
The potential unintended consequences of this law could be... well, really icky. OK, I am not a lawyer, but I can imagine someone using this law to keep less-than-glowing biographies from coming out of their deceased relative, in order to polish that person's reputation. Uhm, helloooo? That's bad. Even if the suit doesn't hold up in court, they've thrown enough stumbling blocks and made someone suffer, monetarily and otherwise. :rolleyes: