Tupac’s Rights of Publicity

He’s alive!!! Tupac Shakur has been spotted…well, that’s not exactly true…Tupac came out and did his thing…well…..that’s not exactly true either! Confused? Well, according to several eyewitnesses Tupac Shakur (who has released 9 albums since his untimely death) performed at the 2012 Coachella festival; and this wasn’t a broadcast of some old Tupac footage…this was something different! Thanks to “digitized reanimation” and reams of stored footage, producers were able to splice together different bits of old footage and create an entirely new Tupac performance–AND at the same time…let the world in on a little known stream of income–one that every artist should be cognizant of during a contract  negotiation.

I’m talking about the ability to create a new performance using an individual’s image and generate money from such use–after the death of the individual. Right now, you should be asking yourself…”How do I tap in to this stream of income?” The answer is by enforcing your right of publicity? So..what is the “right of publicity”? 

Basically, a right of publicity is the right to limit the public use of your name, likeness and/or identity for a set amount of years, especially where such use is for commercial purposes. This is especially important when someone other than YOU (or your heirs) intends to use your name, likeness and/or identity to make money. Right of Publicity laws are not simply about ensuring that you or your heirs gets paid, it is also about your right to control how you are commercialized. 

The right of publicity is a state law intellectual property right. Each state grants and controls this right; as such, the right of publicity varies from state to state–(Florida recognizes this right for up to 40 years after death, Tennessee-10 years, Virginia-20 years, Kentucky, Nevada, and Texas-50 years, California-70 years, Washington-75 years, Indiana and Oklahoma-100 years). The right of publicity extends to everyone, whether you are an A-list celebrity or Joe Somebody.

However, as with most other things, this right can be transferred or given away. By giving away this right without giving serious consideration to these concerns, you could potentially cut off your right to share in a very lucrative stream of income AND your ability to determine how you will be remembered.

***Something else to think about…what happens when a label is tired of dealing with a difficult artist…will the label simply create a performance, instead of dealing with this difficult artist..and cut the artist completely out of their own career.

(The individuals in the above photos are for illustration purposes only).

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1 Comment

  1. […] 1953); McCarthy, The Rights of Publicity and Privacy 2d § 10:8). The Miami Entertainment Law Group warns that signing away this right “could potentially cut off your right to share in a very lucrative […]


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