How the Other Half Lives (Revisited): Twenty Years Since Midler v. Ford - A Global Perspective on the Right of Publicity


For celebrities, name and image are, arguably, two of their most valuable assets. From headlining a movie, to starring in a commercial, to endorsing a product, a celebrity’s persona is potentially worth thousands to millions of dollars. However, this intangible commodity’s worth is often siphoned off by those who appropriate a celebrity’s name or image without authorization or remuneration, thus potentially decreasing the property’s value. In order to stifle this unjust enrichment, celebrities greatly desire the absolute right to control the commercial exploitation of their name and likeness.

In this article, I examine the current state of the right of publicity both in the United States and abroad. Unlike most articles on the subject, which primarily, if not wholly, focus on protection within the United States, this paper surveys potential protection schemes from numerous countries. Within each country’s discussion, I also discuss whether Bette Midler, whose seminal case is at the root of this paper, could bring a colorable claim before the local courts.

It is this author’s belief that an injury to a celebrity’s publicity is no longer confined to the U.S. Therefore, a global perspective is vital to better understanding the problem with the unauthorized use of a person’s name or image.

In addition to discussing individual States, this paper also examines the potential protection within several international agreements and treaties. Lastly, this paper proposes a global harmonized solution that would take into consideration the intricacies of the issues underlying the right of publicity and instill a uniform code of protection within the TRIPs Agreement.


Comparative and Foreign Law | Dispute Resolution and Arbitration | Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law | Intellectual Property Law | International Law | Legal Remedies | Torts

Date of this Version

July 2006