The New York State Assembly’s 2017 session recently came to an end, and in its last few days it considered an ill-drafted bill that could have significantly expanded the state’s “right of publicity.” The right of publicity, which is recognized on a state-by-state basis, allows an individual in certain circumstances to control the use of his or her name, image, or likeness. The bill, which likely will be reintroduced when the legislature convenes its next session in January 2018, would have exposed authors to unwarranted litigation risks when writing about real people, living or dead.
After learning late last week that the bill, which the Assembly had worked on with MPAA and SAG-AFTRA, was being put up for a vote and might have the support to pass, we worked over the weekend with numerous other groups to make sure the bill didn’t go through. As drafted, the bill had the potential to quash authors’ free speech and ability to write about or even allude to real persons, in fiction as well as nonfiction, up to 40 years after death.
Below, see our letter to Joseph Morelle, majority leader of the Assembly, outlining our issues with the bill and offering input to craft a more author-friendly right of publicity law.