Beware Twitter Users: Tweets Can Raise Publicity Legal Issues

June 10, 2009

“As exhilarating as social networking tools like Twitter can be, they also raise a variety of legal issues concerning the right of publicity,” says intellectual property attorney Jonathan Faber.

An Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis professor, Faber is also founder and CEO of Luminary Group, a licensing and intellectual property management company that works with icons such as Buddy Holly and Joe DiMaggio, and rock stars, race car drivers, music publishers and others.

Faber cited two recent events. This week the Indianapolis Colts issued a statement on www.Colts.com that a Twitter user posing as Peyton Manning was not the ‘real’ Peyton. Similarly, St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa filed a lawsuit against Twitter for unauthorized and offensive content that was posted in his name.

La Russa’s suit was filed in San Francisco in May. It claims that an unauthorized page that used La Russa’s name to make light of drunken driving and two Cardinals pitchers who died, damaged La Russa’s reputation and caused emotional distress.

The suit also claims that someone created a false account in La Russa’s name and posted “tweets” that appear to have come from La Russa.

“In addition to other potential legal issues like fraud and defamation, such activity also could drive attention and traffic to the fake site, creating various possible benefits to the impostor,” Faber said.

“Historically, user-driven websites have enjoyed a certain safe-harbor when users post content that violates some law. But it is conceivable that certain sites are so susceptible to abuse that those safe-harbors might be reduced, and an affirmative duty to regulate content and prevent infringements would apply,” Faber said.

Prior to founding Luminary, Jonathan Faber was president of CMG Worldwide, whose clients include Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and many others. Faber also is an attorney with McNeely Stephenson Thopy & Harrold.

At the IU School of Law-Indianapolis, which is located on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus, Faber teaches the nation’s first law school course dedicated entirely to the right of publicity. He is creator of the online right of publicity Internet resource, www.RightOfPublicity.com.

Faber also teaches “Licensing Intellectual Property” at the IU Maurer School of Law, located on the Indiana University Bloomington campus.

Faber has served as an expert witness in cases involving Motley Crue founding member Nikki Sixx against Vans, the animated character Madeline against DIC, Robby Gordon (NASCAR) against Fruit of the Loom, and Uma Thurman against Lancome, among others.

Source:
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
via Newswise

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