Do we need a Federal Right of Publicity Statute?

From film to fashion, creative industries are taking steps to protect and promote original work. Designers and manufacturers need to know what steps they can take to protect their designs, their businesses, and their profits. As more interior designers develop signature styles and product lines, protecting original design is more important than ever. Many industry leaders have honed in on this idea, and are exploring the line between inspiration and replication.

In my recent CEU presentation “Contract Basics for Interior Designers,” I discussed repetitional harm that comes from bad clients, bad projects and competitors. My lecture is part of the Business of Design Lecture Series curated by Design Center at The Merchandise Mart. This event was held February 23, 2017. The growth of sites like Yelp! and other unmoderated opinion sites create an easy way to vent frustrations that may end up causing problems or designer professionals later.

Curiously, few have studied the application of State rights of privacy or right of publicity rights to Interior Design.

Right of publicity law is defined solely by reference to a patchwork of of state statutes and common law decisions. Different states have widely divergent right of publicity laws. This creates risks and uncertainty for a wide range of content producers. At the same time, strong federal protection to free speech rights often color these risks.

For example, take the State of Indiana. This state’s right of publicity statute is the most plaintiff-friendly in the nation, and it contains sweeping jurisdictional and choice of law provisions.

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