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The right to publicity is guaranteed in the United States to protect an individual’s identity. Specifically, the right to publicity concerns the exclusive right to license one’s own identity for commercial purposes, preventing other individuals unauthorized commercial use of their identity. The right to publicity protects the aspects of personal identity, including one’s persona, name, nickname, or any other distinguishing aspect of an individual, for commercial benefit without the individual’s consent. The state common and statutory law generally protects the right to publicity in the United States.

However, not all states recognize the right to publicity. Only about 50% of all states recognize the distinct right to publicity. For the other half of the states, the majority of them recognize the right to publicity under the right of privacy. See also: NYS DOS Right to Publicity

The Second Restatement of Torts recognizes four categories of invasion of privacy: unreasonable publicity, appropriation of name or likeness, intrusion, and false light. See Restatement (Second) of Torts §§ 652A - 652I. The right to publicity will be most similar to the unauthorized appropriation of an individual’s identity. See Restatement (Second) of Torts § 652C, comments a & b, illustrations 1 & 2.

Other jurisdictions protect the right to publicity via the law of unfair competition. The law of unfair competition is composed of torts that protect the identity of individuals against a wrongful attempt to imitate or misappropriate that identity. Furthermore, if a trademark is protecting an individual’s identity, then the federal law may kick in, providing additional protection to the right to publicity. See trademark. Finally, the Federal Lanham Act provides protection of the person’s identity when a false advertisement of a product uses or attempts to use the person’s identity.

See: Keller v. Electronic Arts Inc., 724 F.3d 1268, Jordan v. Jewel Food Stores, Inc., 851 F. Supp. 2d 1102, Brown v. ACMI Pop Division, 375 Ill. App. 3d 276, The First Amendment and the Right(s) of Publicity.

[Last updated in February of 2024 by the Wex Definitions Team]