It has come to my attention that someone is using the likeness (a mugshot) and name of my deceased grandfather on mugs, t-shirts, etc. and selling them online. Do I have any rights in this situation to stop them?
3 Answers from Attorneys
The simple answer is that you have to get someone's permission to use their likeness but there are some exceptions. I don't have enough facts here to offer an answer. It is an intellectual property issue that will turn on the specific facts in this matter.
My law firm is based in New York City and focuses on intellectual property law. If you want to give me a call about this issue, just call me at 866-529-6693 or contact me via my website (http://www.lawmoye.com).
The right of publicity for a deceased person is based on the state where that person resided and it varies greatly from state to state. For example, in New York the right of publicity terminates at death, however in California the heirs of a deceased person are granted rights for a limited term and in Tennessee the right is almost infinite. In addition, merely being the grandson is not enough, as one would have to be the legal heir to be able to enforce such right.
Roman R. Fichman, Esq.
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As a Franchise Attorney I concur with the other attorney answers. The issue revolves around the specific facts and circumstances of your grandfather - which were not disclosed in your question. For example, was he a public figure or just a private person? Consult with a good intellectual property or franchise attorney in your area for specific advice.
Mr. Franchise - Kevin B. Murphy, B.S., M.B.A., J.D.
Franchise Foundations, a Professional Corporation