Dead Celebrities -- The Use of Their Images in Advertising: A Legal and Policy Analysis

Ross Petty, Babson College
Denver D'Rozario, Howard University
Leah C. Taylor, Howard University
Frank K. Bryant, Howard University

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An increasing practice in the field of marketing is the use of dead celebrities in advertising and on merchandise and memorabilia. Some estimate that this licensing industry produces revenues of $300 million annually (Brott 2004). In this paper, we first trace the origins of this practice and its historical development to the present time. We then look at the various laws that assign property rights for deceased celebrities' names and likenesses to their estates, thereby establishing a licensing market. Finally, we examine the public policy implications of this practice.