Privacy and publicity rights reflect separate and distinct interests from copyright interests. Patrons desiring to use materials from this website bear the responsibility of making individualized determinations as to whether privacy and publicity rights are implicated by the nature of the materials and how they use such materials. The following is some general information for patrons to consider, but it is not intended and does not constitute legal advice and patrons should consult their attorneys should they have any questions about proper use of materials from this website.
While copyright protects the copyright holder's property rights in the work or intellectual creation, privacy and publicity rights protect the interests of the person(s) who may be the subject(s) of the work or intellectual creation. Issues pertaining to privacy and publicity may arise when a researcher contemplates the use of letters, diary entries, photographs or reportage in visual, audio, and print formats found in library collections. Because two or more people are often involved in the work (e.g., photographer and subject, interviewer and interviewee) and because of the ease with which various media in digital format can be reused, photographs, audio files, and motion pictures represent materials in which issues of privacy and publicity emerge with some frequency.
The distinctions among privacy rights, publicity rights, and copyright are best illustrated by example: An advertiser wishes to use a photograph for a print advertisement. The advertiser approaches the photographer, who holds the copyright in the photograph, and negotiates a license to use the photograph. The advertiser also is required to determine whether it has the right to use the image of the person (s) appearing in the photograph, separate and apart from the copyright in the photograph. The person(s) appearing in the photograph may have a right of privacy and/or publicity rights in the use of their likeness in connection with the sale of goods or services, or other uses. These principles also apply to film and audio-visual works.
While copyright is a federally protected right under the United States Copyright Act, with statutorily described exemptions for designated permitted uses, privacy and publicity rights are generally the subject of state laws. What may be permitted in one state may not be permitted in another. Note also that related causes of action may be pursued under the federal Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125 (a), for example, for unauthorized uses of a person's identity in order to create a false endorsement.