Hollywood.com consulted me (as well as several of my colleagues) on the Zero Dark Thirty voicemail controversy — specifically with regard to the right of publicity issues. From the article:
The family of Bradley Fetchet, a 24-year-old equities trader who worked on the 89th floor of the South Tower, say filmmakers used the audio of his last phone call without their consent. Mary Fetchet, Bradley’s mother, told the New York Daily News in an interview, “I was shocked that I hadn’t been contacted to be asked for my permission to use Brad’s recording…to take his last words to me before he died, just, it’s counterproductive to one’s healing process. I don’t object to the film being made. But I do object to them taking the liberty of including my son’s last message to me.”
But do the families have legal grounds here since, as Oliver noted, “the tape recording itself is protected by federal copyright law?” Tim Bukher, a parnter at Handal & Morofsky, LLC explained, “New York Civil Rights Law Section 51 provides a cause of action to ‘[a]ny person whose name, portrait, picture or voice is used within this state for advertising purposes or for the purposes of trade without the written consent first obtained.’ In New York we call this our “Right to Privacy” (in California and some other states it is referred to as the “Right of Publicity”). Connecticut, which is relevant here because that is whether the deceased’s family lives, also has a common law right of publicity.”
Read the entire article here.