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Protecting Children’s Right of Publicity

April 24, 2023

Prof. Jennifer Rothman recently penned a piece at Slate exploring the “growing threat to the next Brooke Shields of the world.”

In “What Happened to Brooke Shields Was Awful. It Could Have Been Worse.” at Slate, Jennifer E. Rothman, Nicholas F. Gallicchio Professor of Law, explains why it is important to ensure that children retain their rights to their own identity through the lens of the history of the exploitation of child performers. 

Rothman is nationally recognized for her scholarship in the field of intellectual property law. She is the leading expert on the right of publicity and is frequently sought after to consult on legislation, high-profile litigation, and the development of creative projects. Rothman holds a secondary appointment at Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication.

Rothman’s book, The Right of Publicity: Privacy Reimagined for a Public World, published by Harvard University Press, addresses some of these concerns in what has been described as the “definitive biography of the right of publicity.” Her essays and articles regularly appear in top law reviews and journals; “Navigating the Identity Thicket: Trademark’s Lost Theory of Personality, the Right of Publicity, and Preemption” was published in the Harvard Law Review in 2022 and featured in Advances in Research, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s annual premier publication that highlights outstanding faculty research and scholarship. 

Rothman has also created Rothman’s Roadmap to the Right of Publicity, an online resource that provides a comprehensive analysis of state right of publicity laws and commentary on recent cases and legislation.

From Slate:

Jennifer E. Rothman, Nicholas F. Gallicchio Professor of Law Jennifer E. Rothman, Nicholas F. Gallicchio Professor of LawMuch of the recent coverage of the new Brooke Shields documentary on Hulu rightly focuses on the chilling exploitation and sexualization of the star as a child, and then celebrates how far we have come, noting that sexualized and sexist depictions of a young actress would not be tolerated in the same way today. Lost in these (perhaps overly) hopeful visions of progress is the story of a growing threat to the next Brooke Shields of the world. There is a growing trend in states across the country of making the rights to a person’s own name, likeness, and voice transferable to others. Protection against unauthorized uses of one’s name or likeness is a good thing, but allowing the transfer of such rights is not. Once someone’s identity is transferable, then troubled and financially strapped parents (like Shields’ mom), as well as predatory agents, managers, companies, and organizations, will be armed with the ability to strip anyone, including aspiring models, actors, musicians, and student-athletes, of their rights to their own identities… . 

Read Rothman’s full piece at Slate.