Friday, May 19, 2017

Louisiana Right of Publicity Moves Forward

By Professor Jennifer Rothman

This blog post originally appeared on Rothman's Roadmap to the Right of Publicity.

The proposed “Allen Toussaint Legacy Act” has passed another hurdle in the Louisiana legislature. The bill passed the House last week and was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. The Act is named after the famed New Orleans musician, songwriter and producer, who died in 2015. The proposed law provides individuals with a “property right in the commercial use” of their names, voices, signatures, photographs, and likenesses.

The law problematically provides that this property right is “freely transferable, assignable, licensable, and heritable.” As I have warned elsewhere, such laws provide an avenue for individuals to lose control over their own identities forever if they assign their property right to third-parties like record labels or movie producers, or sports leagues. In addition, estate taxes on such fully transferable property may force heirs to commercialize the identities of the deceased even if that violates the wishes of the deceased and his heirs.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Professor Caplan Pens ACLU Amicus Brief

Professor Aaron Caplan was the primary author of an amicus brief submitted to the California Court of Appeal in Geoffrey C. Keyes v. Jan Brio. The case interprets the California civil harassment statute, a topic on which Caplan has a leading law review article. In the brief, Caplan focuses on whether the speech in question is “directed at a specific person” or is merely about that person.

[Excerpt]

The First Amendment broadly protects a speaker’s right to communicate with listeners about topics of the speaker’s choice—even when the topic is another person. Restricting such communication just because its content distresses the person spoken about constitutes a forbidden prior restraint on constitutionally protected speech.

Read the full brief below:


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

With Kindred, Supreme Court Signals It Will Stand By Arbitration Contracts that Limit Private Parties' Recourse in State Courts

By Professor Adam Zimmerman

This week, the Supreme Court rejected a Kentucky rule that prevented people from entering into arbitration with general power of attorney agreements. The Kentucky Supreme Court last year found that such agreements violated its constitutional guarantee to court access and held people only could only assign and waive those rights when a power of attorney contract expressly said so. The US Supreme Court found that the state rule unlawfully "single[d] out" arbitration agreements for "disfavored treatment" and violated the Federal Arbitration Act, which prevents states from discriminating against arbitration agreements.

In some ways, the impact of this decision is narrow. The Court emphasized that states could still prevent people from entering into contracts to arbitrate under "generally applicable contract defenses," like fraud. They just cannot adopt rules that only apply to arbitration. The Court took pains to emphasize that this Kentucky rule was unique because it specifically singled out arbitration as something that had to be expressly provided for, but not other forms of alternative dispute resolution, like settlement discussions or mediation. Said the Court in a footnote, "[m]ark that as yet another indication that the court’s demand for specificity in powers of attorney arises from the suspect status of arbitration rather than the sacred status of jury trials."