Princess Diana’s Nonexistent Right of Publicity

Today I attended a lecture by Mark Roesler, one of the leading right of publicity attorneys in the country and an alum of the law school where I teach. The lecture was quite interesting, and one thing I learned that I did not know is that Princess Diana no longer has a valid right of publicity.  (Since we are at the 20th anniversary of her death, I thought this was a good time to address this point.)

At the time of Diana’s death, the UK did not recognize a post-mortem right of publicity. An attempt by the charity set up by Diana’s estate to enforce a publicity right in the United States was rejected by the Ninth Circuit in 2002 and led to a settlement that cost the estate a considerable sum in attorney’s fees. The charity shut down in 2012, and at this point there is no active effort to revive her publicity claims. As a result, anyone can pretty much slap her face or name on merchandise, as a Google search shows.

Whether this is a good or bad outcome I leave to your considered judgment.

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1 Response

  1. Joe says:

    “The right of publicity, often called personality rights, is the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness, or other unequivocal aspects of one’s identity.”

    I find copyright rules that protect content long after a person has died problematic so, but might accept a short term grace period here. But, even in that respect, enough time has past. A few months after she died? Maybe a bit different.