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We live in a society that not only embraces celebrity, we thrive on it. According to CBS News, the phenomenon of regular folks thirsting for celebrity video, news, and gossip is bigger than ever. Experts say that celebrities' images provide consumers with the ability to instantly recognize or relate with a product versus getting buried in a sea of logos. So when we see Michael Jordan's Nike shoes or Angelina Jolie wearing Christian Louboutin shoes, they have an added appeal.
While that instant recognition can translate to a lucrative business, or even more traffic to an individually-owned blog, there are some legal issues that individuals need to think about if they are posting celebrity videos and images online. There is the issue of copyright infringement. In particular, online copyright infringement. There is also the issue of a celebrity's right of publicity.
According to FindLaw, copyright law protects the right of a copyright owner to publically display his or her own work. This work is known as an "expression of an idea" and can be illustrated through a variety of mediums such as dance, writing, music, and art. Infringement on such rights occurs when such work is displayed to public without the copyright owner's express permission. This means that if an individual posts celebrity videos that he or she did not produce, and did not receive permission from the copyright owner to post the videos, then there is copyright infringement.
If you are infringing on a copyright, you may have to take down the celebrity videos and also pay damages for the infringement.
Since the videos in question are celebrity videos, another legal issue is the right of publicity. Right of publicity laws protects a person from the unauthorized use of their name, likeness, or identity. While it is trumped by the First Amendment if it used in the context of news, public affairs, or other stories, using a celebrity video still may cross that line if it is not considered newsworthy. It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to posting celebrity video.
For more information about online copyright infringement and right of publicity, or to connect with an attorney, click on the links below.