Right of Publicity of Athletes in the United States and Europe

33 Ent. & Sports Law, Issue 4. 61,75, 2017

17 Pages Posted: 12 May 2020

See all articles by Zehra Betul Ayranci

Zehra Betul Ayranci

University of California Berkeley School of Law

Date Written: 2017


It has been four decades since the United States Supreme Court issued its only decision involving right of publicity claims: the Zacchini decision. Since this case, which was by all accounts an unusual one, the popularity of this right as well as the morass between right of publicity and free speech has significantly increased in the United States. Europe, on the other hand, is no stranger to this hot topic. “Image rights,” the preferred term in Europe, is of constant interest, especially in relation to the recent tax fraud allegations against the soccer player Lionel Messi and other world famous athletes.

The right of publicity has attracted the interest of many scholars and practitioners around the world. Some argue in favor of increased uniformity, stressing the need for a federal law pertaining to the right of publicity in the United States, or protection to one’s persona for the entire European Union. Others argue the scope of the right of publicity is too broad and ambiguous, and emphasize that overprotecting one’s persona invites disaster. Regardless of one’s position regarding right of publicity, the sports industry deserves a specific focus due to its beyond-borders nature and large commercial market welcoming million-dollar sponsorships and endorsement deals for athletes.

This Article surveys the legal landscape regarding right of publicity by focusing on the similarities in the United States and Europe. Further, it highlights major issues specific to sports industry. It concludes with suggesting a general consensus and set of rules applicable worldwide that would help eliminate the issues stemming from the disjointed applications by different states and countries.

Keywords: right of publicity, image rights, athletes, sports, endorsement, likeness

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K12, K14, K19, K20, K23, K30, K39, L82, L86, M30, M31, M37, M38, O34

Suggested Citation

Ayranci, Zehra Betul, Right of Publicity of Athletes in the United States and Europe (2017). 33 Ent. & Sports Law, Issue 4. 61,75, 2017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3579022

Zehra Betul Ayranci (Contact Author)

University of California Berkeley School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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