This essay discusses how the right of publicity became such a robust property right — much more far-reaching than analogous rights in copyright or trademark. One cannot explain the accretion of celebrity publicity rights as a matter of legal logic or simple reaction to the growing economic value of celebrity endorsements. Instead, the essay explains the right's expansion from the perspective of political economy. Critical innovations to the right of publicity occurred in the particular political environment of the 1980s and 1990s. Despite some groups' resistance to new, specialized entitlements for celebrities, the conditions were right for a particular coalition of interest groups to push through new vigorous interpretations of the right of publicity. I also discuss the right's expansion from the perspective of a different political actor: judges. At the end of the twentieth century, the political optics of celebrity changed in a way that provided more comfort for judges who were once hostile to the anti-democratic implications of publicity rights. Judges confronted a changing social definition of celebrity that was no longer linked to merit or inner greatness. Anyone, it was now argued, had the potential to become famous. This change in the meaning of fame made celebrity legal protections seem less like a perk for a rare few and more like a fundamental right available to all.'The Present of Newsworthiness' by Amy Gajda in (2016) 50 New England Law Review 145 comments
In early February 2016, less than a week before this Book Symposium, the Utah Supreme Court decided that the photographic results of a woman’s plastic surgery were not necessarily newsworthy. The decision may seem inconsequential at first. The plaintiff had an abdominoplasty and breast augmentation and agreed that photos be taken “for medical, scientific or educational purposes.” Fox News later aired partially redacted photographs of her nude body and post-operative state in a news story about the benefits and risks of plastic surgery. The plaintiff settled with Fox, but filed a privacy-based lawsuit against her plastic surgeon. The Utah Supreme Court heard the case after a trial court dismissal and decided That the plaintiff’s privacy tort claims should continue. As regarding publication of private facts, the tort most relevant to this Symposium Paper, the court decided for the first time that such claims should include a newsworthiness element and defined the element in line with the Restatement (Second) of Torts. News, the court wrote, “is a concept that has essentially been defined by traditional publishers and broadcasters, ‘in accordance with the mores of the community.’” Therefore, in Utah, if a truthful news item is newsworthy, but privacy-invading, the newsworthiness of the information can trump the plaintiff’s privacy interests.