District Court Rejects Right of Publicity Claim on “Parody” Grounds
From Steele v. Goodman, decided Thursday by Judge John A. Gibney, Jr. (E.D. Va.):
The plaintiffs assert that [Jason] Goodman violated [the right of publicity statute] by publishing videos and selling merchandise on the website Red Bubble that depicted [David] Steele’s face on the hind end of an animal and on a cartoon body. The Court finds that Goodman’s creations, while repugnant, are parody images protected by the First Amendment.
Courts are sharply divided on when (especially outside the context of commercial advertising) the First Amendment preempts the “right of publicity,” which is the right to control the commercial use of one’s name, likeness, and other attributes of identity, whether in comic books, video games, greeting cards, or elsewhere. But there is general agreement that parodic uses are protected, and this fits that well.
Here’s the backstory, which also led to a libel claim that the court declined to dismiss:
Goodman … “owns, maintains[,] and operates multiple Internet and social media properties, including YouTube channels and a Twitter account.” “The name of Goo
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