Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rick Barber, George Washington, and The Right of Publicity

One more video you may want to use when you cover the right of publicity.  Last year a congressional candidate named Rick Barber shot a campaign ad that got a lot of attention.  He sat at a kitchen table with men dressed as Samuel Adams, Ben Franklin, and George Washington.  He explained the situation in Washington (as he sees it) and the piece ends with a close-up of Washington dramatically intoning "Gather Your Armies."  You can find the clip here.

I showed the commercial in class today in the context of the California common law right of publicity following White v. Samsung.  We discussed whether Washington's right to publicity had been violated.  It was an interesting discussion.  One student suggested that the folks who own Samuel Adams beer would have a more significant claim (although in the piece Sam sits listening, rather than calling to arms.)  Since many felt that Washington had been dead too long to deserve any protection, we also discussed whether the analysis would be different if a more recent president, such as JFK, were depicted.  That led to a discussion of the Kennedy miniseries which will not be shown on the History Channel (because of behind-the-scenes pressure, rather than a right of publicity claim).

Oh yeah, we also discussed Paris Hilton and Snooki's respective paths to fame, and whether a Lockean approach to property rights (i.e. encouraging labor) should really be applied to them.

All in all, a fun and engaging class.

Tanya Marsh

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