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.