How doI go about using a deceased public person’s likeness and name on a product that I want to sell?

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How doI go about using a deceased public person’s likeness and name on a product that I want to sell?

If I want to sell a product with a picture/name of a person, who is dead and is not very famous. Who would I contact for the right to sell this good?

Asked on March 2, 2011 under Business Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You'd have to contact the person's heirs or estate, who would be the ones who have the right to license, etc. the likeness of their ancestor. If you do not get the agreement of the heirs or estate--and note: they do not have to provide it; it's purely voluntary, if you and they can work something out--you may not use that person's likeness.

This is probably a risky thing to do, since it's not always clear who is the rights holder--i.e. it's difficult to be sure you're negotiating with the correct person or entity. If the person whose likeness you want to use was not very famous, it's not clear that whatever advantage you got would outweigh the difficuties and potentially cost (since you'd likely have to pay a fee or percentage) to use the name and likeness.


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