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
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: Suggested Citation