ArticlesVolume 42, No. 3 (2019)

Territoriality, Jurisdiction, and the Right(s) of Publicity

David G. Post

Contributor, The Volokh Conspiracy, Adjunct Scholar, The Cato Institute, Retired Professor of Law, Temple University Law School

Abstract

When Professors Rothman and Ginsburg asked me to speak here on the issues surrounding territoriality, jurisdiction, choice of law, and the like in the law of publicity, I confessed that I knew little about the developing law of publicity rights. Having taught Copyright Law for many years, I had come across the well-known foundational publicity rights cases—the cases involving Tom Waits, Vanna White, and Bette Midler—because of the problematic relationship between those decisions (under California state law) and federal copyright law. But I had not studied the publicity doctrine, or the main corpus of cases and statutes, with any great care.

I had, however, done some thinking over the years about territoriality and jurisdiction in other contexts. I was happy to have the opportunity to dive in and spend a couple of months immersing myself in the publicity cases and commentary to try to discover how those questions played themselves out in this particular corner of the legal universe. I found the results “alarming.” I use the term advisedly, so let me try to explain what I mean by it.