The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

No Right of Publicity Claim for Publishing Court Opinion with Plaintiff's Name

Obvious, but good to have a cite for that.


In Busener v., decided a year ago by Judge Eleanor L. Ross (N.D. Ga. Mar. 25), but just added to Westlaw (2020 WL 8813909), plaintiff sued Leagle—which posts court opinions in a Google-searchable location—for allegedly libeling her "and using her name and likeness without her consent," by "posting … the content of a criminal court opinion where Plaintiff's name is the same as the named defendant in the case." (It isn't clear to me whether this opinion, which involves solicitation of sex for money, indeed involved plaintiff, or someone else with the same name.)

No, said the court, unsurprisingly:

Here, Plaintiff's Complaint fails to claim that the allegedly libelous material is false. Additionally, as court opinions are matters of public record, Defendants use of Plaintiff's name and likeness by posting a court opinion to their website does not constitute a violation of Plaintiff's right to publicity….