The New York legislature is weighing a new bill that would expand the state’s publicity rights law—and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) is pushing back.
Pursuant to the companion legislation in both houses, individuals could bring a private right of action against marketers, broadcasters and other media outlets that use their names, photos, characteristics or likenesses without consent, even if the individuals have never lived in New York. The rights under S.5857A and A.8155 would last up to 40 years after death in the event a $50 registration fee is paid to the state.
“As currently drafted, the legislation could cause serious harm to our members in the marketing and advertising community, many of whom are based in New York and the vast majority of whom transact significant amounts of business within the state,” Dan Jaffe, ANA’s group executive vice president of government relations, wrote to New York State lawmakers.
The ANA presented multiple concerns, beginning with “the massive expansion” of the scope of the right of publicity, which would “reach far beyond the confines of the state and even the United States” simply with registration.
“This could lead New York courts, which are already over-burdened, to be inundated with claims asserted by those with no connection to New York,” the ANA told lawmakers. “Moreover, it personally impacts the ANA membership by subjecting all national advertising campaigns to potential suit within the state, regardless of where the decedent was domiciled. The threat of litigation could chill advertising, and therefore business, within the state.”
As well as adding a domicile requirement to the measure, the ANA requested clarification with regard to the registry requirement. It believes the current versions are unclear with respect to who must register and who is exempted from registration, according to the letter, leaving significant uncertainty.
Finally, the industry group decried the vagueness of the bill’s use of terms such as “likeness” and “characteristics.” Not only would these unclear terms end up as a question of fact for a jury, but it’s unclear how a marketer would be able to ascertain what “characteristics” or “likeness” of the individual would be covered by the measure. “The complications and vagaries of these terms when applied to a post-mortem right and a registry raise serious concerns and uncertainties for marketers,” Jaffe wrote.
As the legislation raises “a number of major issues,” it “should not be enacted as currently drafted,” the ANA told legislators, offering to discuss possible changes.
To read S.5857A, click here.
To read the ANA’s letter, click here.
Why it matters: In addition to the ANA’s many concerns about the proposed legislation—the lack of a domicile requirement, ambiguities with regard to the state registration and the use of vague terms in the bills—the Electronic Frontier Foundation also spoke out against the law, characterizing it as “deeply flawed” given the addition of postmortem rights.