Minnesota Lawmaker Proposes "Prince Act" So Others Can't Exploit Prince

Prince Performing - Getty - H 2016
Getty Images

Prince Performing - Getty - H 2016

When Prince passed away on April 21, he died in one of the few states that doesn't have an explicit statute that punishes commercial exploitation of an individual's likeness without consent. A Minnesota lawmaker now aims to change that.

Rep. Joe Hoppe (R) is taking a stand against name appropriation by introducing a bill dubbed the PRINCE Act. It's an acronym, as PRINCE stands for Personal Rights in Names Can Endure — and according to Minnesota Public Radio, it's got bipartisan support and is being championed by the trust appointed special administrator of the late recording artist's estate.

The text of the proposed law guards against exploitation of voice, name, signature and photograph for at least 50 years, would operate posthumously and, learning a lesson from what happened in Indiana, would apply retroactively for those dying before passage. Like, ahem, Prince.

The bill attempts to carve out "fair use" of one's name and likeness in news, public affairs or a sports broadcast, although the First Amendment would be the true limitation for a controlling owner. Although there's no explicit Minnesota statute for likeness protection, there's a right of privacy in the state and maybe the right of publicity anyway, thanks to Jesse "The Body" Ventura (before he became governor). But nothing postmortem. At least not yet. There's two weeks left in the legislative session, so the lawmakers are said to be rushing.

(There's also federal trademark rights enjoyed by many celebrities. In fact, a quarrel with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over Prince's attempt to re-register his name ended just days before his died when "Prince" was approved for publication.)

Of course, there's a potential downside to the high value of one's name and image. Ask the Michael Jackson estate.