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Florida Bar Journal

An Athlete’s Right of Publicity

Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law

One of the more valuable assets a celebrity-athlete may possess is his or her identity or persona.1 This asset may be of considerable and lasting value, because when one’s ability to play the game wanes, the marketing power of one’s persona might not. Stars like Arnold Palmer, Peggy Fleming, Richard Petty, Martina Navratilova, and George Foreman continue to appear in endorsement advertisements long after their peak performing days in sports are over. Meanwhile, past sports figures like “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Vince Lombardi, and Dale Earnhardt continue to have significant marketing value after their deaths. How does one protect the use of his or her persona from wrongful appropriation? What limits apply to that protection?

The tort of appropriation has two fundamental branches: the right to privacy and the right of publicity.2 The difference between the right to privacy and the right of publicity is substantial. The right of publicity has its roots in the common law tort of appropriation and protects the economic interest one has in his or her name.3 On the other hand, the right to privacy protects against unreasonable intrusion upon seclusion, the public disclosure of private facts, and false light in the public eye.4 It is arguable that the line between publicity and privacy rights lies between prevention of unjust enrichment by a party who would appropriate one’s persona for profit, and protection of one’s dignity and state of mind.5 This article will explore the formation of the right of publicity and how it has applied to sports figures. It will seek out the parameters of generally available protection based on various case law and will examine how the right of publicity is protected under Florida law.

Origins of the Right
As early as 1891, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a person’s right to the use of his or her own name.6 One of the earliest cases to test and expand this concept in a commercial setting was Edison v. Edison Polyform Mfg. Co., 67 A. 392 (N.J. Ch. 1907). Inventor Thomas Edison developed a pain relief formula he called “Polyform.” He assigned rights to the formula in 1879 for $5,000. After several failures by the assignee to market the product, the formula ended up in the hands of a New Jersey company operating under the name of “Edison Polyform.” This company successfully marketed the formula in the Chicago area. On the bottle’s label was a picture of Thomas Edison and the caption: “Edison’s Polyform. I certify that this preparation is compounded according to the formula devised and used by myself. Thos. A. Edison.”7 Edison testified that he never authorized the use of the picture and never authored the certification. The New Jersey Court of Chancery granted Edison the injunction and stated that “[i]f a man’s name be his own property. . . it is difficult to understand why the peculiar cast of one’s features is not also one’s property, and why its pecuniary value, if it has one, does not belong to its owner, rather than to the person seeking to make an unauthorized use of it.”8

Edison focused upon the right for Thomas Edison to control the use of his name and an injunction issued to protect that right. The court did not consider any economic benefit denied or financial harm incurred by Edison.

Through the first half of the 20th century, publicity-based lawsuits were filed based upon rights to privacy, and courts would allow unconsented use of a person’s image where the person had attained fame. Typical of this was the 1941 case of Davey O’Brien. O’Brien was a famous college football player who sued to recover for the use of his persona on a calendar that advertised Pabst beer.9 O’Brien claimed he would never lend his name to advertise alcohol, but the court denied relief, stating that he had lost his right to privacy by his prior achievement of fame.10

In 1953, the right of publicity was at last formally recognized in Haelan Laboratories v. Topps Chewing Gum, 202 F.2d 866 (2d Cir. 1953).11 In Haelan, the plaintiff entered into an exclusive agreement with a professional baseball player to have the exclusive right to use the player’s photograph in connection with the sale of the plaintiff’s gum. Soon after, the defendant, a competing chewing gum company, intentionally induced the same baseball player to enter into a similar exclusive agreement. The defendant contended that the agreements were merely releases from liability from suit under the ball player’s right to privacy and that this right was a personal right and not assignable.12 The court rejected the notion and instead declared that “[t]his right might be called a ‘right of publicity.’ For it is common knowledge that many prominent persons (especially actors and ball-players), far from having their feelings bruised through public exposure of their likenesses, would feel sorely deprived if they no longer received money for authorizing advertisements, popularizing their countenances, displayed in newspapers, magazines, busses, trains and subways.”13 Haelan thereby distinguished the right of publicity from the right to privacy.

The bifurcation of the tort of appropriation into a right of publicity (a proprietary right), and privacy (a dignitary right),14 is illustrated by comparing two landmark articles. Privacy issues were explored by Louis Brandeis and Samuel Warren in the famous 1890 article The Right To Privacy. The authors discussed the right in the context of protecting one’s individual solicitude and privacy from “[g]ossip, no longer the resource of the idle [but now a trade]. . . only procured by intrusion upon the domestic circle.”15 The Right To Privacy set forth the notion that such privacy rights are not founded in contract, but are naturally occurring rights against the world protecting the “private life, habits, acts, and relations of an individual [with no connection to] his fitness for public office.”16 Over half a century later, Melville Nimmer, in his article The Right of Publicity, wrote that a violation of the right of publicity involved unjust enrichment or profitable appropriation and exploitation.17 Nimmer identified the proper test for infringement of the right of publicity to be “identifiability.”18 Thus, according to Nimmer, if the identity of the person claiming infringement cannot be ascertained in the allegedly infringing work, there is no cause of action.

Under current law, four elements of appropriation of identity constituting infringement to the right of publicity have been established.19 The elements are: taking, identification, benefit to the appropriator, and lack of consent.20 A taking demands that third parties recognize the identity and act in a manner that tangibly benefits the taker.21 The person whose image is appropriated must be objectively identifiable.22 As well, a benefit to the appropriator must accrue before a legal claim arises,23 and the use must be nonconsensual.24

Parameters of the Right of Publicity
With the right to prevent the unauthorized use of a persona established, the ability to manage the persona or defend against its misuse is aided by knowledge of the right’s parameters. The courts and statutes seem apprehensive to create a list of specifically protected rights to publicity, because a finite list of protected elements of one’s identity would only invite marketers to discover new ways to appropriate.25 The court in Abdul-Jabbar v. General Motors Corp., 85 F.3d 407 (9th Cir. 1996), stated that “[a] rule which says that the right of publicity can be infringed only through the use of nine different methods of appropriating identity merely challenges the clever advertising strategist to come up with the tenth.”26 Instead, the courts have established the rough boundaries of the right of publicity through some of the following examples.

What is required to identify the persona?

The identifiability test set forth by Nimmer begs the question of what must be identified, and of what it must be identified with. “Although the right began as a protection for a [person’s name and image]. . . it is now generally understood to cover anything that suggests the plaintiff’s personal identity.”27 Case law has developed to determine what suggests the plaintiff’s personal identity.

When an advertiser recreates a photograph by way of a hand sketch and uses it in a print advertisement, it has been found to infringe the right of publicity of an athlete.28 For example, in Newcombe v. Adolf Coors Co., 157 F.3d 686 (9th Cir. 1998), the Adolf Coors Company, owners of Killian’s Irish Red Beer, published an advertisement in Sports Illustrated that featured a drawing of an old-time baseball game. Donald Newcombe, a former Negro league pitcher, saw the ad and filed suit.29 Comparing the advertisement’s drawing to an old newspaper photograph of Newcombe, the court noted that they were “virtually identical, as though the black and white photo had been traced and colored in.”30 The pitcher’s number had been changed from “36” to “39,” and the color of the bill of his hat had also been changed. In finding a genuine issue of fact in dispute, the court denied summary judgment for the defendant, and held that even though the pitcher’s facial features were not clear, he was identifiable as Newcombe by his stance, by the wrinkles in the uniform pants, by the darkness of tone of his skin, and by the similarity of the uniform numbers (notably the ease with which an artist could invert a “6” to make it a “9”).31 The court found that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Newcombe’s identity was used in the advertisement and reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant.32

Can the sports figure seek protection if the appropriator even more indirectly alludes to the persona? The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found in Motschenbacher v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 498 F.2d 821 (9th Cir. 1974), that the identifiability of a race car driver can be inferred by the “distinctive decorations on the car” even when the driver’s face was not seen and his race car number had been changed.33

Turning from appropriation of the image to the name, basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has twice filed suit to protect his name. Interestingly, the first suit did not involve his present name, it concerned the name by which he was identified through his years at UCLA and in his early years in the NBA: Lew Alcindor. Abdul-Jabbar v. General Motors Corp. centered around a television advertisement General Motors ran during the 1993 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which created an association between the three consecutive years of Alcindor’s being named most outstanding player in the NCAA tournament, and the same number of consecutive years (three) that the Oldsmobile 88 had been named Consumer Digest’s “Best Buy.” The commercial showed no visual image of Alcindor, the person, it only showed a graphic of the name.34 The appellate court addressed the question of whether an individual has a right to publicity in his or her former name.

The district court ruled against Abdul-Jabbar, finding that he had abandoned his use of the name and therefore General Motors’ use of it could not be construed as an endorsement. The appellate court reversed and remanded, stating that the “right of publicity protects celebrities from appropriations of their identity not strictly definable as ‘name or picture.’”35 The court held that “by using Alcindor’s record to make a claim for its car—like the basketball star, the Olds 88 won an ‘award’ three years in a row, and like the star, the car is a ‘champ’ and a ‘first round pick’—GMC has arguably attempted to ‘appropriate the cachet of one product for another’.”36 This means that a person’s former name can remain attached to his or her persona and warrant protection when the appropriator sufficiently attempts to link its product to that name.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s next foray into the courtroom concerned the use of his name by Karim Abdul-Jabbar, a running back for the Miami Dolphins. The case settled out of court with the latter agreeing to use only ‘Abdul’ for publicity purposes.37 This settlement reflects the current state of the law as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gained only a concession for occasions when Karim Abdul-Jabbar’s name would be used in commerce.38 Unless the use of an identical name carries with it an independent tort, there is no exclusive right to the mere use of a name.39

It follows from the preceding cases that if a commercial or print advertisement showed the heavily tattooed arm of an African-American male playing basketball, Dennis Rodman would likely be able to sue for appropriation of identity. According to the Ninth Circuit, if such an image portrays characteristics sufficiently distinct, there may indeed exist a cause of action.

Can an athlete get “used” by the news?

It is well settled that use of a player’s persona for news reporting purposes is not an infringement of the right of publicity.40 This is obviously so, as countless images are exposed daily via various news sources. Despite this First Amendment protection, limits do exist pertaining to the use of newsworthy images of sports figures.

On occasion, news entities use video clips, sound bites or photographs from their news items for use in other commercial contexts. In Joe Montana v. San Jose Mercury News, 35 U.S.P.Q.2d 1783 (Cal. App. 1995), the question arose as to whether a newspaper may republish its front sports page and sell it for a profit. The San Francisco 49ers had won their fourth Super Bowl. The following day, the newspaper published a “Souvenir Section” devoted exclusively to the 49ers as a “team of destiny,” with an artist’s drawing of Montana’s image was on the front page.41 At a later date, the front page was produced in poster form and sold to the general public. Montana thereafter filed suit for common law and statutory commercial misappropriation of his name, photograph, and likeness.42

The issue before the court was whether there was an infringement of Montana’s right of publicity or if the republication was entitled to First Amendment protection. The court looked to prior case law that stood for the proposition that “a person’s photograph originally published in one issue of a periodical as a newsworthy subject. . . may be republished subsequently in another medium as an advertisement for the periodical itself, illustrating the quality and content of the periodical, without the person’s written consent.”43 Citing several other supporting cases, the court recognized that “the right of publicity has not been held to outweigh the value of free expression,”44 and “[a]dvertising to promote a news medium. . . is not actionable under an appropriation of publicity theory so long as the advertising does not falsely claim that the public figure endorses that news medium.”45 Therefore Montana lost his claim because the poster did not constitute an endorsement of the San Jose Mercury News by him.

It follows from Montana that the media may not take the athlete’s image from its use in a newsworthy context for use in commercial materials if the image is an unauthorized endorsement. However, the media can use the formerly newsworthy image for self-promotion otherwise. This is evident by the daily use of once newsworthy sports footage in self-promotional announcements for ESPN and local television station sportscasts.

Another area of concern is where the line is drawn between mere reporting of a story and an actual play-by-play account, such that the broadcast remains news and not something more.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided in Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co., 433 U.S. 562 (1977), that the First Amendment does not entirely shield a news outlet from a performer’s state law right of publicity.46 In so holding, the Court recognized inter alia that the broadcast of a film of Zacchini’s entire human cannonball act posed “a substantial threat to the economic value of that performance. . . since if the public can see the act free on television it would be less willing to pay to see it at the fair. . . [because] the broadcast goes to the heart of petitioner’s ability to earn a living as an entertainer.”47

Whether in the context of news or self-promotion, if rights to broadcast play-by-play are not secured, the media is restricted to showing only segments of a performance, not an entire performance. The Zacchini ruling has the effect of limiting news organizations from unauthorized broadcast of an entire event, thus preserving play-by-play rights that would otherwise be eroded.

• Is there protection for resale of officially licensed images?

The “first sale doctrine” operates to limit intellectual property rights such that once a copyright owner transfers ownership to a buyer, it is not an infringement of the copyright for the buyer to sell the work to another.48 Put another way, the doctrine means that once the copyright owner “consents to the sale of particular copies of his work, he may not thereafter exercise the distribution right with respect to such copies.”49 This limitation also applies to the common law right of publicity.50

In Allison v. Vintage Sports Plaques, 136 F.3d 1443 (11th Cir. 1998), the question before the court was whether the defendant’s products were merely the sports cards repackaged on laminated wood, or were they products “separate and distinct” from the trading cards they incorporated.51 The appellate court affirmed the district court’s decision to grant summary judgment to the defendant, declaring that where the defendant lawfully purchased sports cards, framed and mounted them on plaques, and resold them, the first sale doctrine operates as a defense.52

In the wake of Allison, one may sell off their lawfully acquired collection of Baseball Trading Cups.53 However, what appears impermissible is for one to incorporate those into another product, like a giant wall clock, where the clock is the primary or ‘separate and distinct’ item purchased. The fair use doctrine applies to the cups as cups, not as elements of a different product.

The Right of Publicity Under Florida Law
F.S. §540.08 sets forth a cause of action for the appropriation of one’s image under a right of publicity theory.54 The statute prohibits the nonconsensual printing, publishing, displaying, or other public use of “the name, portrait, photograph, or other likeness of any natural person” in trade or for commercial purpose.55

The statute provides for several exceptions to the general rule. Exceptions include use of a persona as part of a presentation having a current or legitimate public interest, use where the persona cannot be identified, and use by consent.56 Further, the law allows an exception from liability when the person whose persona has been appropriated has been dead for over 40 years.57

A cause of action vests in the person whose image is appropriated, or a firm or corporation authorized in writing to license the use of a person’s image.58 If the person is deceased, rights inhere in a firm or corporation authorized to license the decedent’s persona, or the decedent’s surviving spouse or surviving children.59 A person with standing to sue may bring an action to enjoin the publication, display, broadcast, or other public use, and may recover for any loss or injury from the appropriation, including reasonable royalties, and punitive or exemplary damages.60 The remedies allowed are in addition to, not in limitation of, any remedies available under common law rights against the invasion of privacy.61

There is no wealth of case law under Florida’s right of publicity statute concerning sports figures. However, in NFL v. The Alley, Inc., 624 F. Supp. 6 (S.D. Fla. 1983), the court held inter alia that the statutory right of publicity was not violated when a Miami-area sports bar intercepted the satellite signals during blacked-out Dolphins games and displayed them to the paying public at their lounges. The court reasoned that the Dolphins’ players weren’t protected by the statute because the defendant did not use their images to promote a commercial product or service.62 The court also reasoned that the players waived protection under §540.08 because of their contractual consent to appear in game telecasts.63

Other case law interprets the parameters of the Florida statute. In Loft v. Fuller, 408 So. 2d 619 (Fla. 4th DCA 1981), a pilot was killed in an airline crash; his widow sued claiming that the pilot’s image had been appropriated for the sale of a book about the crash.64 The court denied relief holding that the nonconsensual use of an individual’s persona came under the purview of the statute only when such use “directly promote[s] the product or service of the publisher.”65

Interestingly, the right of publicity is law that demands flexibility, and the numerous specific ways in which one’s persona can be appropriated for commercial use are not spelled out by statute. Instead, the law is largely designed to adapt to the changing techniques of marketers and the channels by which they promote goods. This is evident as the law has been applied to tonic bottles in Edison, print in Newcombe and Montana, and television in Abdul-Jabbar. Certainly, if not already, it will extend to appropriation of the persona on Internet Web sites.

However far the law reaches to affect modern modes of communication, it remains rooted in the fundamental concepts of its origin. Currently, to avoid appropriation, the law concerns itself with the exploitative nature of advertisers, which Brandeis and Warren feared in 1890, by making consent requisite for lawful use of a persona. As advertisers promote their goods with ever-evolving creativity, the brilliance of Brandeis’ and Warren’s warnings is revealed. At the same time, the law addresses the economic-based reasoning Nimmer postulated in 1954, allowing the person harmed to recover pecuniary losses incident to appropriation. In these respects, the right of publicity, as differentiated from the right to privacy, exists to prevent the nonconsensual commercial use of one’s image or persona.

1 For brevity, the word “persona” or “image” will be used to represent the various attributes such as name, voice, or likeness that might be ascribed to the athlete’s identity. Generic terms will be used unless the case or statute pertains to a specified feature such as voice, autograph, photograph, and so forth.

2 Henry L. Zuckman et al., Modern Communications Law, §4.5, at 313, 314 (1999).

3 W. Page Keeton et al., Prosser And Keeton On Torts, §117, at 854 (1995).

4 Id. at 854–865.

5 J. Thomas McCarthy, Melville B. Nimmer and the Right of Publicity: A Tribute, 34 UCLA L. Rev. 1703, 1705 (1987).

6 See Brown Chemical Co. v. Meyer, 11 S. Ct. 625, 628 (1891). The Court held that a person has a right to use his or her own name. The court referred to prior case law that held that the mere right to use a name, by itself, is not transferable but conceded that a name is transferable when it accompanies the goodwill of a firm or product when sold.

7 See Edison v. Edison Polyform Mfg. Co., 67 A. 392 (N.J. Ch. 1907).

8 Id. at 394.

9 O’Brien v. Pabst Sales Co., 124 F.2d 167 (5th Cir. 1941). It seems that O’Brien had permitted his college, Texas Christian University, to include photographs in a press kit in which Pabst gained access to. Pabst, without seeking further permission, placed O’Brien’s photograph on the cover of a calendar, which included a beer slogan and photo of a bottle of beer.

10 Id. at 170. It should be pointed out that the waiver of the right to privacy, by virtue of the fact that one has achieved fame, has long since disappeared. In fact it is now recognized that under the right to control publicity, the right becomes more important as the individual’s level of notoriety increases.

11 Haelan Laboratories, Inc. v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc., 202 F.2d 866 (2d Cir. 1953) (holding that a person has a right in the publicity value of his or her photograph and that such a right was an assignable property right).

12 Id. at 868.

13 Id.

14 Zuckman, supra note 2, at 313.

15 Samuel D. Warren & Louis D. Brandeis, The Right to Privacy, 4 Harv. L. Rev. 193, 196 (1890). The article forecasts the modern media’s hunger for scandalous private information about public figures for economic exploitation.

16 Id. at 213–216.

17 See J. Thomas McCarthy, Melville B. Nimmer and the Right of Publicity: A Tribute, 34 UCLA L. Rev. 1703, (1987), citing to Melville Nimmer, The Right of Publicity, 19 Law & Contemp. Probs. 203, 212 (1954).

18 Id. at 1709.

19 SeeZuckman, supra note 2, at 316.

20 Id. at 317–319.

21 Id. at 317.

22 Id. at 318.

23 Id.

24 Id. at 319.

25 See Abdul-Jabbar v. General Motors Corp., 85 F.3d 407 (9th Cir. 1996).

26 Id. at 415.

27 See Landham v. Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc., 227 F.3d 619, 624 (6th Cir. 2000).

28 See generallyNewcombe v. Adolf Coors Co., 157 F.3d 686 (9th Cir. App. 1998).

29 Newcombe did not just sue on right of publicity grounds. He also sued for defamation because of his lifetime battle with alcoholism, which cost him his Major League Baseball career. His fight against alcohol was so notorious that presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan appointed him as an official spokesperson for the National Institute on Drug and Alcohol Abuse. At the time the case was decided, he remained the Director of Community Relations for the L.A. Dodgers where he continued an active role in fighting alcohol abuse.

30 See Newcombe, 157 F.3d at 690.

31 Id. at 693.

32 Id. at 696.

33 See Motschenbacher v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 498 F.2d 821 (9th Cir. 1974). Since 1966, each of his cars has displayed a distinctive narrow white pinstripe appearing on no other car. This decoration has adorned the leading edges of the cars’ bodies, which have uniformly been solid red. Defendants used footage of the car in a race, edited the number from 11 to 71, added the Winston logo, and did not expose the driver’s face. Defendants made no other changes, and the white pinstriping, the oval medallion, and the red color of plaintiff’s car were retained.

34 Abdul-Jabbar v. General Motors, 85 F.3d at 409.

35 415.

36 Id. at 416.

37 Don Cronin, Bleacher TV, USA Today, April 30, 1998, at p. 1C.

38 Recall infra that the tort of appropriation of identity requires taking, identifiability, benefit to the appropriator, and lack of consent.

39 Keeton et al., supra note 3, §117 at 852.

40 See Montana v. San Jose Mercury News Inc., 35 U.S.P.Q.2d 1783, 1785 (Cal. App. 1995), citing toPaulsen v. Personality Posters, Inc., 299 N.Y.S.2d 501 (N.Y. Sup. 1968) (reciting that any format of the written word or picture will be exempted in conjunction with the dissemination of news or public interest presentations); also see Fla. Stat. § 540-08(3)(a) (exempting any bona fide news report’s use of one’s persona from coverage).

41 See Montana, 35 U.S.P.Q.2d at 1784.

42 Id. at 1784.

43 See id. at 1786, citing to Booth v. Curtis Publishing Co., 223 N.Y.S.2d 737, 738-739 (N.Y. A.D. 1962) (holding that actress Shirley Booth’s right of publicity was not infringed when her picture from an earlier edition of Holiday Magazine was used in a later edition merely to advertise the magazine).

44 Id. at 1786, citing toGugleilmi v. Spelling-Goldberg Productions, 25 Cal.3d 860, 873 (Cal. 1979).

45 Id. at 1786–87. Citing toCher v. Forum Intern., Ltd., 692 F.2d 634, 639 (C.A. Cal. 1982). The Forum magazine appropriated right of publicity by falsely indicating that Cher had told it things that she would not tell a rival magazine and by falsely indicating that she endorsed the magazine; also see Namath v. Sports Illustrated, 371 N.Y.S.2d 10 (N.Y.A.D. 1975) (stating that so long as the reproduction was used to illustrate the quality and content of the periodical in which it originally appeared, the statute was not violated).

46 See generally Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co., 433 U.S. 562 (1977). An Ohio television station broadcast the entire 15-second performance by Zacchini, the “Human Cannonball,” without Zacchini’s consent. He sued to recover his performance fee. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the television station’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were superior to Zacchini’s right of publicity. The U.S. Supreme Court overruled.

47 Id. at 575–76. One should take caution to understand that the practice of showing, for instance, a speed skater’s entire race (which is commonly done in sports casts reporting on the Winter Olympics) would not fall under the rule of Zacchini and give the skater standing to sue because the rights to the entire Olympic broadcast have been already sold. If anyone in that case would have standing, it would be the network rights-holder. Zacchini, in a practical sense, would apply to performances where the performer has not contractually given up his or her rights of publicity and a newscast has nonconsensually broadcast the entire performance.

48 Arthur R. Miller & Michael H. Davis, Intellectual Property; Patents, Trademarks, And Copyright 328 (2000).

49 See Allison v. Vintage Sports Plaques, 136 F.3d 1443, 1444 (11th Cir. 1998), citing to M. Nimmer & D. Nimmer, Nimmer On Copyright §8.12[B][1] (1997).

50 Allison, 136 F.3d at 1444.

51 Id. at 1450. On page 1451, the court stated that it was unlikely that anyone who purchased one of the defendant’s plaques did so for any reason other than to obtain the mounted display of the card itself. However, the defendant mounted some of the cards on plaques with clocks and the court remarked that that was a closer case, but it doubted that anyone bought the plaque simply as a means of telling time.

52 1445.

53 Baseball Trading Cups were distributed throughout the early 1970s by the Southland Corporation through their chain of 7-11 stores. Each cup bore the image of a player on one side and a bio and statistics on the reverse side.

54 Fla. Stat. Title 33 §540.08 (2001).

55 Fla. Stat. §540.08(1).

56 Fla. Stat. §540.08(3).

57 Fla. Stat. §540.08(4).

58 Fla. Stat. §540.08(1)(a)-(b).

59 Fla. Stat. §540.08(1)(c).

60 Fla. Stat. §540.08(2).

61 Fla. Stat. §540.08(6). The statute curiously refers to the right of publicity as an invasion of privacy while its title and subject matter clearly pertain to the right of publicity.

62 See National Football League v. The Alley, Inc., 624 F. Supp. 6, 10 (S.D. Fla. 1983). The court held that the interception of satellite signals for telecast in a sports bar did not violate the players’ right to publicity, but did violate the Telecommunications Act of 1934, §705, 47 U.S.C.A. §605, prohibiting interception of C-band frequencies of blacked-out and non-blacked-out football games and their display to the paying public. The plaintiffs were granted injunctive relief.

63 Id.

64 See Loft v. Fuller, 408 So. 2d 619, 623 (Fla. D.C.A. 1981) (finding no requisite commercial purpose under Fla. Stat. §540.08 just because the publication itself was offered for sale).

65 Id. at 620–21. The widow alleged that harm resulted from reference to decedent as a “reappearing ghost” as described in a book and a movie based on the book.


Brian M. Rowland graduated with honors from the Florida Coastal School of Law (J.D.) after an 18-year career in broadcast station ownership and management, and software product management. He is now employed with the Jacksonville law firm of Milam & Howard. Special thanks to three-time Olympic gold medalist and professor of law Nancy Hogshead for her assistance.

This column is submitted on behalf of the Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Section, Louis Tertocha, chair, and Theodore R. Curtis, editor.

Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law