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Al Pacino and Yoko Ono, sitting in a tree….

westernBurrowing.jpgAl Pacino and Yoko Ono are pushing a bill in New York which would help protect the advertising use of dead celebrities (e.g., that vacuum commercial with Gene Kelly from several years back). Under current New York law, companies can’t use famous folks’ images, voices and names in ads without their permission while said celebrity is alive. However, once they die, those protections fade away. Pacino and Ono want a mandate that advertisers seek permission from a dead celeb’s estate before using their name and image. As Pacino said in his letter to the state legislature:

I feel like one’s likeness and image should be protected in some way and not abused or denigrated for the sake of profit. Hoo-ah!

[The “hoo-ah” may not have actually been in his letter.]

The bill, were it to become law, would criminalize (as a misdemeanor) the advertising use of dead celebrities without the permission of their estate. Seems perfectly reasonable, but one Assemblyman is quick to point out that there must be balance for First Amendment rights. The bill, he says, is ambiguous because it prohibits uses “for the purpose of trade,” a rather vague phrase which could “stop the artistic exploitation of an image” in addition to “commercial exploitation.”

When Yoko Ono was asked for comment, she shaved a sheep while mimicking the hoots of the Western Burrowing Owl.

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Comments

(not a lawyer,just a visitor linked here by Pajiba)

Is it even possible to have a law that selectively protects celebrities? Shouldn't it be illegal to use anyone's visage in advertising without their permission, if it's going to be illegal to use a celeb's? And if this law is passed, does it mean that any dead person's visage will be off-limits? (Presumably including a variety of historical figures?)