Caricature and The Right of Publicity

Can a caricaturist sell copies of his caricature of Jack Nicholson or any celebrity on T-shirts at some store or over the internet? How about all those caricature prints selling daily on eBay and Etsy? Each case has its own individual facts and facets, but the underlying law that allows public figures to protect the value of their own image is called the Right of Publicity.

The Right of Publicity (ROP) is an ever evolving aspect of law that allows someone to protect the commercial value of their image, voice, and persona.

Master caricaturist Tom Richmond takes a deep dive into The Law.

It’s not too hard to understand that selling T-shirts with a portrait of Brad Pitt on it would probably be on the losing end of a ROP suit, but what about a caricature? After all, isn’t a caricature by definition satire? Doesn’t the first amendment protect our right to free speech, and our ability to make fun of someone or something? Yes and no.

This is high on the list of The-Best-Reasons-To-Sign-Up-For-The-Ink-Stained-Wretch.

While Tom’s weekly newsletter is always informative and entertaining, this one is adds educational.

I don’t know if there is an individual url to sign up for the newsletter, but if you scroll to the bottom of this informative and entertaining blog post from Tom you will be able to sign up for The Ink Stained Wretch.


Two things:

I think the Right of Publicity discourse will show up on Tom’s Mad Blog in a couple weeks,

and if you are like me you will have to scroll back up the column to remind yourself that ROP stands for Right of Publicity – every time I saw ROP my brain went to Run of Press.