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What is California postmortem image and likeness rights?

On Behalf of | Jan 31, 2022 | Entertainment Law |

California publicity rights have well-defined statutes. This includes the rights of a deceased’s estate. According to Civil Code Chapter 2 Subsection 3344.1, unauthorized use of the personality’s voice, signature, photograph, likeness or name in a profitable manner engenders payment for damages.

If you represent the estate of a deceased individual or want to prepare for using your client’s image in the future, continue reading to learn more about who may use their likeness.

How are publicity rights transferred?

California considers the use of someone’s likeness as falling under property rights. The right to use a name or likeness is freely transferable through contract or trust. However, if a public person did not designate the transference of their image rights, a system of hierarchy follows.

What if there is no contract or trust?

First, if a surviving spouse receives the full privilege of profiting off the deceased’s likeness. However, if the decedent has surviving children or grandchildren, the spouse gets 50 percent of the ownership, and the children receive shares of the remaining 50 percent. Without a surviving spouse, the rights pass to the surviving children. If the personality does not have a surviving spouse, children or grandchildren, then the deceased’s surviving parents receive the image rights. If the decedent does not have any of the surviving relations listed above, the publicity rights of the decedent terminate.

If a public personality does not prepare their estate accordingly, their estate stands to lose a substantial amount of profit. Ensure to establish provisions for their image use so that loved ones and business entities do not lose out.



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