Enslaving the Image: The Origins of the Tort of Appropriation of Identity Reconsidered
Legal Theory, Vol. 2, p. 301, 1996
24 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2011
Date Written: January 1, 1996
This article looks back to the origins of the tort of appropriation in turn-of-the-century America to understand better how principles of privacy law were first used to define and confront questions of the legal status of identity. It argues that the first advocates of privacy law used the concept of appropriation of identity to define and promote a way of life and an entire scheme of social relations that stood in opposition to the rising tide of modernity as represented on the one hand by an unfettered capitalism that threatened to commodify all aspects of human experience, and on the other hand by the flood of immigrants perceived as a teeming urban mass that threatened to debase the more “refined” and individualistic culture of the genteel bourgeois elite. The battle to protect individual privacy reflects and illuminates deeper conflicts over negotiating the terms by which America was to enter the twentieth century. In the origins of the tort of appropriation we see the anti-modern bourgeois using law to adapt ideals of civility and deference to a rapidly changing world of giant trusts and immigrant masses.
Keywords: Tort of appropriation, privacy law, legal identity, identity, bourgeois
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