Thursday, August 23, 2012
The Boston Globe describes an effort, spearheaded by Bill Cosby (no, seriously), to enact postmortem publicity rights in Massachusetts:
If the bill becomes law, people in Massachusetts—most notably those who, like Bill Cosby, have built up bankable personas over the course of their lives—will be able to treat their identities as pieces of property that continue to exist in the world long after they do. For 70 years after your death, according to the proposed bill, your identity will legally live on, and your heirs will be able to own it, or sell it, or sue anyone who uses it without asking.
This seems like a pretty terrible idea. Is there any argument that it's public's interest to grant the already-extremely-rich extensive control over their personaes for 70 years after their deaths? Someone needs to remind the legislature "that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living; that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it." That's true even if the dead were excellent pitchmen for Jello pudding pops.