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The Commercial Appropriation of Fame


  • Page extent: 312 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.64 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9781107139329)

Celebrities can sell anything from cars to clothing, and we are constantly fascinated by their influence over our lifestyle choices. This book makes an important contribution to legal scholarship about the laws governing the commercial appropriation of fame. Exploring the right of publicity in the US and the passing off action in the UK and Australia, David Tan demonstrates how an appreciation of the production, circulation and consumption of fame can be incorporated into a pragmatic framework to further the understanding of the laws protecting the commercial value of the celebrity personality. Using contemporary examples such as social media and appropriation art, Tan shows how present challenges for the law may be addressed using this cultural framework. This book will be of interest to intellectual property law academics, judges, practitioners and students in the US and common law jurisdictions, as well as those in the field of cultural studies.

• Advances a new understanding of the cultural phenomenon of fame in the twenty-first century that is relevant to laws governing commercial appropriation • Provides a comprehensive doctrinal analysis of the right of publicity and passing off involving celebrity claimants • Explains how laws governing the commercial appropriation of fame should be interpreted and how they should evolve


Foreword Graeme Dinwoodie; 1. Introduction to the phenomenon of the contemporary celebrity; 2. Relevant insights from cultural studies; 3. The right of publicity in the United States; 4. Right of publicity and indicia of identity; 5. Right of publicity and the appropriation of commercial value of identity; 6. Right of publicity and the freedom of speech under the First Amendment; 7. Cultural studies and the common law passing off action; 8. Twenty-first century challenges: digital fandom, social media and fantasy video games; 9. Conclusions.


'David Tan expertly draws upon the cultural studies tradition to provide a wide-ranging, up-to-the-minute and evenhanded critique of right of publicity law in the US, the UK and Australia. Though theoretically sophisticated, Tan's critique is emphatically practical. He persuasively sets out the many ways in which cultural studies insights can guide the application and reform of right of publicity law. The Commercial Appropriation of Fame is an important new resource that will be required reading for anyone interested in how the law regulates the commercial - and political - exploitation of fame.' Barton Beebe, John M. Desmarais Professor of Intellectual Property Law, New York University School of Law

'A fascinating study of appropriation, consumption and the role of law in our celebrity-obsessed culture.' Sonia Katyal, Chancellor's Professor of Law and Co-Director of Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, University of California, Berkeley

'I have been following David Tan's erudite interdisciplinary work on the commercial appropriation of fame for a number of years, and I am pleased to see this book bring his ideas and arguments together in an exemplary fashion. An essential contribution to the literature on the legal effects of celebrity.' Megan Richardson, Co-Director of the Centre for Media and Communications Law and the Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia, University of Melbourne

'‪No part of intellectual property law has been as criticized and misunderstood as the right of publicity. Its very reason for being has been continually questioned by both academics and judges. David Tan has shed a much-needed light on the cultural foundations that underlie the law's treatment of the commercial value of human identity. His primary focus is on the world-wide phenomenon of celebrity culture and its impact on advertising and consumption. But as Tan notes, in the internet age of social media and commercial 'likes', every person is a 'celebrity' to their 'friends'. His analysis will bring a practical and useful insight to the law's treatment of the commercial exploitation of fame.' ‬ J. Thomas McCarthy , University of San Francisco School of Law and author of The Rights of Publicity and Privacy

'David Tan's extensive exploration of the ways in which cultural studies understandings of celebrity correspond to developments in right of publicity law will enrich the legal literature. His discussion and comparison of doctrine in the US, the UK, and Australia further contributes to our understanding of the right of publicity and similar concepts in a global context.' Rebecca Tushnet, Frank Stanton Professor of First Amendment Law, Harvard Law School, Massachusetts

'David Tan has masterfully set the legal doctrines that define the market for celebrity in the broader context of cultural studies. The legal analysis, covering several common law jurisdictions, is clear and compelling. The cultural studies perspective illuminates the legal rules: David Tan assigns himself the task of 'learning to identify the hidden culture codes and signifying systems that shape our beliefs and behavior' in order to 'formulate legal responses that are consonant with such codes'. His exposition of the 'celebrity trinity': 'the celebrity individual, the audience, and the cultural producers' provides a convincing framework through which to understand and critique the current legal landscape.' Jane C. Ginsburg, Morton L. Janklow Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law, Columbia Law School, New York

'The book is a useful and interesting addition to the collection of any scholar interested in personality rights.' Phillip Johnson, European Intellectual Property Review

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