Wednesday, April 1, 2015
White House of Cards: Selling the Presidents
We don't think you're going to have any copyright concerns because your images are all public domain. So, your only concern is whether the ex-prexys will sue for right of publicity. A few states have a post-mortem right of publicity -- that is the heirs of Richard Nixon might be able to pursue you. Living ex-presidents like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush also have the legal basis to hassle you. (It's unlikely you'll be hassled by the current president because of public relations issues.) Unfortunately, even though politicians like Spiro Agnew, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jesse Ventura have sued over right of publicity claims, these cases settled without any court precedent. So, there are no legal rulings indicating whether a politician's right of publicity trumps commercial free speech rights.
Bottom Line Dept. We think you should proceed with your card set. Other companies have followed a similar path and we assume they did so without contacting the grandchildren of Harry Truman, etc. Should you get hassled, we think you have a strong free speech defense (and the publicity probably won't hurt your sales either).