Aubrie Hicks


While the states are fairly consistent in protecting the rights of living individuals, the level of protection for deceased celebrities varies among the states. Some states allow the right to extend beyond death, while others refuse to recognize a postmortem right of publicity. Even among states that do recognize a postmortem right of publicity, the right is protected to varying degrees, with some states providing explicit statutory protections and others providing only common law protections. Given the inconsistencies among the states, the continuing right to publicity after death has been the subject of much litigation over the last few years, especially in light of the fact that many celebrities continue to earn vast amounts of money even after death. The most notable cases involve well-known celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Jimi Hendrix. In each case, the court refused to extend the right of publicity past death, denying intellectual property protections to each celebrity’s estate. This Comment explores the development of publicity rights and states’ methods of protecting, or their failure to protect, the rights of deceased celebrities. Part II provides background on celebrity rights in the United States and examines the evolution of rights in Washington State. Part III examines the district court’s decision in Experience Hendrix, L.L.C., v. HendrixLicensing.com, Ltd. Part IV offers suggestions for ways in which the Personality Rights Act can be amended to ensure the continuation of publicity rights after death without violating the Constitution. Part V provides a summary and conclusion.