The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
An unfortunate bit of silliness from the Minnesota legislature: the PRINCE Act (as in Personal Rights In Names Can Endure):
An individual has a property right in the use of that individual's name, voice, signature, photograph, and likeness in any medium in any manner. The[se] rights are freely assignable and licensable and do not expire upon the death of the individual so protected, whether or not the rights were commercially exploited by the individual during the individual's lifetime. The rights are descendible to the executors, assigns, heirs, or devisees of the individual so protected by this section. …
It is deemed a fair use and no violation of an individual's rights if the use of a name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness is in connection with a news, public affairs, or sports broadcast or account.
Just what we need—more property rights that will clog up commerce, stifle free expression, make lawyers happy and last forever. But at least Prince's heirs—who are already entitled to dozens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in future copyright royalties—will have ways to make sure that there's no end to the river of money that Prince's death has washed up on their doorsteps.
Publicity rights are of dubious value as a general proposition, and making them last after death is absolutely unsupportable by any theory of public policy or public welfare—just a gift to celebrity heirs, who don't need it.
And as Mike Masnick points out over at Techdirt, the PRINCE Act actually violates itself, by using an individual's name "in any medium in any manner" without consent! Not sure I've ever seen that before …