For instance, the New York bill would have established that a person’s name, picture, voice and signature are “property rights,” going beyond what many states consider privacy concerns. What’s more, a person’s right of publicity would be also by law “freely transferable” by contract. Jeffrey Bennett, deputy general counsel at SAG-AFTRA, gives a modest interpretation of what this means. “When you think of publicity rights as a property right, you would be able to license its use,” he says, as when Carrie Fisher licensed her likeness for new Star Wars films. “With regards to transferability, all we are talking about is licenses.”
But others have sounded the alarm about the dangerous implications of transferability.
Jennifer Rothman, a Loyola Law School professor, warns that making such rights alienable could end up backfiring. “For example, if a celebrity declared bankruptcy, then her creditors could take ownership of her publicity rights,” she says. “Similarly, ex-spouses could take an ownership interest in a person’s identity when assets of the marriage are split.” So Brad could have owned half of Angelina and vice versa.