Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Robin Williams Restricts Use Of Image

Robin WilliamsRobin Williams will remain a missed presence in Hollywood, but his image or name will not appear in advertising or even referenced in future works.  According to the Robin Williams Trust, Williams bequeathed rights to his name, signature, photograph and likeness to the Windfall Foundation, a charitable organization created by Williams’ legal reps. 

The Trust restricts exploitation of Robin Williams’ right of publicity for 25 years after his death--meaning there will not be any authorized advertisements featuring Williams until August 11, 2039.  Moreover, if the Windfall Foundation becomes ineligible for a charitable deduction by the Internal Revenue Code, the Trust mandates that Robin Williams’ publicity rights be distributed other charitable organizations to qualify for such deductions. 

By assigning publicity rights to a tax-advantaged charitable organization, Williams’ may have limited his family’s tax liability.  Not only did Williams assert a measure of control over "posthumous exploitation," but he recognized the increased value of a celebrity's afterlife and made a step to mitigate the IRS's interest in this. 

See Eriq Gardener, Robin Williams Restricted Exploitation of His Image for 25 Years After Death, The Hollywood Reporter, March 30, 2015.

Special thanks to Madeleine M. V. Young (a Hawaii Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention. 


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