A Moron In A Hurry

September 6, 2006

Court to Seize OJ’s Ego

Filed under: right of publicity — nick @ 1:14 am

Courts are increasingly inclined to protect the money-making personas of celebrities under the principle of publicity rights.  Based on state law, whether through statute or common law (California has both), the right of publicity is a property right rather than one arising under tort law that prevents others from commercially capitalizing on another’s fame in ways that are unfair.  It is similar in many ways to trademark, as in both are concerned with preventing public confusion and in making fame profitable. 
Now there’s news that Fred Goldman, the father of Ron Goldman, is asking the Los Angeles County Superior Court to grant him control of OJ Simpson’s publicity rights because OJ has failed to pay up on Goldman’s 1997 wrongful death suit:

Simpson has avoided paying the civil judgment because his National Football League pension and his Florida home cannot legally be seized. However, Goldman’s petition contends Simpson has continued to earn money through appearances and autograph signings.

Goldman said he wants to take from Simpson “what we perceive is probably the most important thing to him, and that’s his ego, and that’s the opportunity to use his name and likeness to earn money.”

Celebrities have enforced their right of publicity against others seeking to capitalize on their fame (recently, see Tony Twist and MLB), but this may well be the first time a court has been asked to seize someone’s persona to settle an outstanding judgment.  Though this is a “property” right, it is not property like a yacht or a house, a distinction that often gets conflated in many discussions over similar forms of intellectual property.  It is also a privacy right as well and one required to maintain personal integrity.  Or maybe this development is just desserts for those in our celebrity obsessed culture who have sought to commodify their fame.  It will be interesting to see how far this case goes.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] The family of Ron Goldman’s lawsuit against OJ to seize his publicity rights, in order to recover the estimated $38 million OJ owes the family from their wrongful death lawsuit, has been “tentatively rejected” by the judge handling the case.  It’s not a final order and the whole affair is expected to wrap up in the next couple weeks. […]

    Pingback by OJ Keeps His Ego, For Now « A Moron In A Hurry — October 19, 2006 @ 7:41 pm


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