Elvis Presley International Memorial Foundation v. Elvis
Presley Memorial Foundation
733 S.W.2d 89 (1987)
- EPIMF and EPMF were both
nonprofit corporations dedicated to selling Elvis paraphernalia. EPMF sued
EPIMF for unfair competition, to prevent it from using the name
- Elvis Presley's estate
argued that they had given the right for EPMF to use the name and had not
given the right to EPIMF.
- EPIMF argued that Elvis
Presley's image entered the public domain after his death, so they didn't
need anyone's permission to use it.
- EPMF argued that Elvis
Presley's name and image are descendible.
- Descendible means that the property (here the right to
use his likeness) is inherited by his heirs after death.
- The right to control one's
likeness is called a right of publicity.
- The Trial Court found for
EPMF. EPIMF appealed.
- The Appellate Court affirmed.
- The Appellate Court found
that, under Tennessee law, a person's right of publicity is descendible property.
- The Court recognized that a
celebrity's right to publicity can
be possessed, used, subject to a contract, sold, or assigned. It is
unquestionably an intangible personal property with economic value.
- The Court suggested many
reasons for why the right to publicity is descendible:
- If it's a property right in
life it must be a property right in death.
- Otherwise it would allow
"one man to reap what another has sown."
- A celebrity operates with
the expectation that he is leaving a valuable asset for his heirs.
- The value of contacts to
use a celebrity's likeness would lose value if their likeness entered
the public domain upon death.
- It prevents manufacturers
from deceptively claiming a dead celebrity endorsed their product.
- The concept of the right of
publicity is a relatively recent
offshoot of the right to privacy.
- See Zacchini v.
Scripts-Howard Broadcasting Co. (433
U.S. 562 (1977)).