Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Publicity Rights and SAT Preparation Materials
Dear Rich: I think my question relates to the right of publicity. I write and edit test prep materials for students studying for the SAT. These materials include sample test questions and examples that illustrate various grammar errors. Some of the sample test questions and examples include the names of celebrities, as well as the names of characters from novels and films (e.g., Harold and Kumar, Santino and Fredo). To illustrate an error in parallel structure, for example, I might include a sentence such as: "Steve Martin is both a brilliant physical comedian and has been successful at writing novels." Then I would include the corrected version: "Steve Martin is both a brilliant physical comedian and a successful novelist." Another example, used to illustrate an error in subject-verb agreement, is: "Megan Fox is one of those actresses who has international appeal." The corrected version would be "Megan Fox is one of those actresses who have international appeal." Would the publication and sale of materials that include these types of examples violate the right of publicity? The short and long answer to your question is that you can use fictional character names and celebrity names in your examples without violating the right of publicity. The Dear Rich Staff appreciates the opportunity to include a Megan Fox photo though we think a better example for your book might be: "Megan Fox is one of those 'actresses,' who have minimum screen time but maximum downloads."