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We’ve been reporting more and more in recent months on “publicity rights” disputes and how a growing number of celebrities and not-so-famous individuals are latching onto the claim to pursue legal action against alleged identity appropriators.
Publicity rights is not only one of the trendiest areas of intellectual property law and a growing practice area in its own right, but some believe the legal claim to be one of the biggest threats to free speech that few people know about.
For more background on the topic, check out our feature story in the ABA Journal this month, “What’s in a Name?” covering, among other things, the real value of being famous in an increasingly digital age.
It’ll help make sense of this scene from “30 Rock,” featuring a conversation between Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and her production staffer Pete (Scott Adsit):
Pete: Liz, quick question about the Johnny Appleseed sketch. Does it hurt it if we can’t call him Johnny Appleseed?
Liz: Yes! Why?
Pete: Well, Johnny Appleseed was a real guy and his descendants are very litigious (both roll eyes). So, here is a list of the names that legal says we can use: Jerry Bananaseed…and…nothing else.
Liz: Great so what are my choices? Either I argue with legal or I spend all day writing something else. Does anyone care how hard I work…?
Pete: (interrupting) Doh! We can’t use Jerry Bananaseed, someone with that name killed a bunch of nurses in Portland.
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