A television news reporter sued the owner of a gossip website when the site's users submitted posts that allegedly defamed the plaintiff, including claims that the plaintiff used illicit drugs, was sexually promiscuous, and committed assault. The plaintiff moved for preliminary injunctive relief on the claim that the posts violated her right of publicity under Tennessee law. Without considering the defendant's potential defenses under the First Amendment and the Communications Decency Act, the court found that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits of her claim. The court reasoned that the defendant did not use plaintiff's name or likeness for purposes of advertising or soliciting any goods or services as required for liability under Tennessee's right of publicity law. The court found that although the defendants made money from the site, the plaintiff did not offer any evidence that the defendants marketed the site using plaintiff's image.
TIP: Use of an individual's image in commercial advertising always requires permission. In addition, the right of publicity laws in some states more broadly prohibit the unauthorized use of a person's name or likeness regardless of whether the use is for the purpose of advertising or soliciting goods or services.