Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Article: The Appropriation of Black Postmortem Rights of Publicity In the Age of Police Brutality

Dane Norvell (Mississippi Law Journal, Forthcoming) recently published, The Appropriation of Black Postmortem Rights of Publicity In the Age of Police Brutality, 2024. Provided below is an abstract:

In America, a lynched man’s circumstance is another man’s paycheck. For Black Americans, the trauma of police lynchings is often accompanied by an economic appropriation of the victim’s name, image, and likeness. With the murder of individuals like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd becoming a modicum of debate for solutions on discriminatory policing habits, public support for the victim’s immediate family is frequently accompanied with consumer goods adopting the deceased’s likeness by way of clothing and food. The profits from these goods often don’t benefit the estate of the individual they purportedly support. Jurisdictions have rushed to provide a remedy for the appropriation of a celebrity’s likeness after death in the form of a Post-mortem Right of Publicity. However, the variety of stances that exist, or the lack thereof, create pathways for opportunist to benefit off the lynchings of Black Americans, harming the financial interest of their estate. This comment provides a remedy in the form of a proposed doctrine, The Postmortem Lynching Doctrine. Its aim being to provide an avenue for courts to expand the scope of the term “commercial exploitation” so that estates of brutality victims, effectively made famous because of their death, have a means to protect their interests.


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