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Cuomo signs legislation establishing a 'right to publicity' for deceased individuals to protect against commercial exploitation of their name or likeness

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Wed, Dec 2nd 2020 06:10 pm

Legislation (S5959D /A.5605-C) establishes right to publicity protections for deceased individuals, ability to transfer rights to descendants; legislation establishes protections against revenge porn & ‘deep fakes’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed legislation (S5959D /A.5605-C) that establishes a "right to publicity" for deceased individuals to protect against the commercial exploitation, or unauthorized use, of their personal characteristics that have commercial value – their name, picture, voice or signature after their death. Additionally, these rights can be exercised by their descendants, giving performers estates the ability to control and protect their likeness or image after they have died.

The legislation also creates new penalties for publishing sexually explicit depictions of individuals, protecting people from revenge porn and "deep fakes," which are synthetic media that are increasingly being used in the digital age to create images of fake events.

"In the digital age, deceased individuals can often fall victim to bad actors that seek to capitalize on their death and profit off of their likeness after they pass away – that ends today," Cuomo said. "This legislation is an important step in protecting the rights of deceased individuals while creating a safer, fairer New York for decades to come."

The "right of publicity" refers to every individual's inherent right to control the commercial use of his or her personal characteristics. This legislation balances longstanding First Amendment protections with the need to further protect the unauthorized exploitation of performers for commercial purposes in the digital age, after they have died.

New York State Sen. Diane Savino said, "This legislation will protect artists and their image both today and after their death for years to come. It also takes the important step of protecting them from having their image superimposed onto pornographic imagery, which only looks to damage their reputations. These important steps will make our state a safer and fairer place for artists of all levels to call home. I thank Gov. Cuomo for signing this bill into law and look forward to continuing the fight for workers' rights alongside him."

Assembly member Helene E. Weinstein said, "At present, tens of thousands of performers and broadcasters who call New York home have no protection from unscrupulous operators who steal their image and persona for commercial gain to use after their death. This bill creates significant legal protections against such wrongful conduct, and also protects those in the acting community from those who would use ‘deep fakes’ to falsely depict them as engaging in sexual activity."

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