Legal Question in Intellectual Property in Florida

Can I copyright myself (likeness, biological markers, etc) or in the case of some work that I have created; copyright my children. If individuals can be copyrighted, then can the use/copy of their likeness or other specific identifying data be protected under the DCMA? I'm thinking about protection from municipal street cams and facial recognition or invasive recognition software scanning a photo of me online. From a privacy standpoint, would copyright limit the use of my "likeness" without my permission?

Asked on 1/04/12, 8:58 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Nancy Delain Delain Law Office, PLLC
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In a word, no; you cannot copyright yourself.

There is a section of the law that falls under trademark whereby a famous person has expanded rights to their likeness; if you are famous (Tom Cruise is famous; Colonel Sanders is famous; Michelle Obama is famous; Michael Jordan is famous; Steve Jobs was famous), you can claim those rights to your likeness, name, and so forth under trademark law. If you're not famous, you don't have the same rights because, quite frankly, your likeness isn't worth as much as that of a famous person is.

Protecting genetic material falls under the purview of patent. Gene sequences are patentable as long as they are novel, useful, and non-obvious, and as long as the applicant conforms with the rest of the many patent laws in existence. Gene patents generally cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop and get through the patent system.

Not even famous people can protect their likeness from surveillance technology. That's a matter of public policy; the harm suffered by the individual on the surveillance tape is far less than the harm that would be suffered by society should the eyewitness that surveillance tape provides in the event of crime be prohibited because of an individual's demand for privacy in a public forum. Your presence on the public thoroughfare is your implicit permission for surveillance cameras to take your picture.

Photographs and videos of you, a non-famous person, are protectable by copyright, but the copyright holder is not the model (you) but the photographer.

THIS POST CONTAINS GENERAL INFORMATION AND IS INTENDED FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. IT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE, NOR DOES IT CREATE ANY ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. FOR LEGAL ADVICE ON YOUR PARTICULAR MATTER, CONSULT YOUR ATTORNEY.

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1/05/12, 9:19 am

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