Even the dead have publicity rights. Don’t put images of famous people on your labels without their permission… or their estate’s.
“[W]hen an artist’s work has touched people so significantly, there are often usurpers that want to capitalize on that connection. A strong brand attracts parasites that attempt to create profits through no work of their own, based on the popularity of and love for an artist.”
Strong words from this complaint recently filed by Biggie’s estate against the company that makes Yes snowboards. The estate claims that the company sold items utilizing an image if Biggie without obtaining the estates permission.
The image cited in the complaint is that of Biggie in front of the World Trade Center from 1996. Additionally, an online search also shows that there were other products made by Yes that utilized likenesses of Biggie – like these boards:
The Takeaway: You may be the biggest fan in the world, but your products profit from the use of someone’s likeness regardless of whether you’re just doing it as an homage. Estates can and to control the right of publicity and have standing to sue for unauthorized use of a person’s likeness. This can go on for a long time as under many state right of publicity statutes even grandchildren have rights to control the use of a person’s likeness. So before you go putting your favorite person’s likeness on your beverage, do some clearance work and get a license or a release.