“Life rights”? (Making things with life?)

Pittsburgh Trademark Lawyer Daniel Corbett brings us an NBA star’s attempt at a four-point shot:

Post-relationship drama takes many forms, but federal court litigation under the Lanham Act isn’t typically one of them– unless you’re Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh.  Bosh recently filed suit against the producer of VH1′s “Basketball Wives,” which, as Bosh correctly notes, comprises about as many ex-wives and/or girlfriends as it does “basketball wives” in the term’s purest sense.

At any rate, Bosh is claiming that his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child is violating his trademark, publicity, and “life rights” by using his name/likeness in connection with the show.  The lawsuit claims that  “[the show] provides these women with a vehicle and worldwide platform” to use the names of players without permission for commercial gain.”

Yes, “using the names . . . without permission for commercial gain” — that’s pretty much dog-bites-man in the IP / right of publicity arena these days.  That’s not blogworthy.

No, you guessed it:  The four-point-shot is the new and exciting proposed tort of “life rights”!  My first inclination, as a child of the ’60’s — no, I mean, really, I was a child then, not that I was born in the ’50’s but kept acting like a child in the ’60’s — was this:

But evidently, no.

Count on Mike Masnick, the source of Daniel’s story, to be all over this nonsense:

Beyond the standard “publicity rights” claims that are so popular these days due to bizarre and dangerous state laws, it seems that Bosh is going even further in claiming that this is also a violation of his “life rights,” claiming that you need a celebrity’s permission to portray them, which isn’t actually true. This seems to be a misreading of California’s publicity rights law.

To be honest, while this case will likely settle one way or the other, it actually seems like it could be a good case for establishing some case law that you don’t need a celebrity’s permission to talk or write about them, and you’re not violating their “publicity rights,” “life rights,” or trademark by appearing in a show based on your connection to them.

As the great Marv Albert would say, “Yuhsssss!”  Except in this case… “No.”

Unless maybe he did mean Lite Bright?

UPDATE:  Good, if somewhat overly credulous, analysis of a related lawsuit — this one by NBA star Gilbert Arenas — by David Fucillo.

LINE SCORE:  Air ball.

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Author:Ron Coleman

I write this blog.

2 Responses to ““Life rights”? (Making things with life?)”

  1. May 24, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

    Sounds like a case of a complaint drafted in haste…I’ve never heard of “Life Rights” as a cause of action,

    “Life Rights” is, in fact, a term of art used by entertainment lawyers and producers of film and TV to identify the agreements used when portraying people’s life stories in TV Movies, docudramas and the like.

    The “life rights” agreement typically grants a particular producer the exclusive right to tell the (authorized) story of a person’s life events. It involves a release of publicity and privacy rights, as well as the consulting services of the person depicted. Usually, “life rights” agreements also require the person to cooperate with the production and to use best efforts to secure the cooperation of others (family, friends, etc.).

    So, the participants in a reality show like “Basketball Wives” probably did sign some form of a “life rights’ agreement. But the verite/documentary style of these shows probably doesn’t require any such permissions from the public-figures to whom they are/were romantically linked. As long as what’s said/portrayed is non defamatory.

    Nevertheless, there are some possible Privacy rights implicated. (public disclosure of private, embarrassing facts? false-light?)

    Will there be an ANTI-SLAPP motion on this? Could be interesting.

  2. May 24, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    Gordon, thanks for the edification about the source of the “life rights” terminology. As you point out, it appears to be something other than a “right,” strictly speaking, but rather is a term of art — not a cause of action.