In a recent decision, U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly took on part of the “continuing saga of litigation concerning the legendary performer Jimi Hendrix” and struck down parts of Washington’s “right of publicity” law, finding them unconstitutional.
Michael Atkins, an attorney and blogger, posted on Seattle Trademark Lawyer about the ruling, part of the long, bitter legal battle over Hendrix’s publicity and trademark rights pitting members of the guitar icon’s family, some of whom, among other things, have sought to capitalize on his fame by selling novelty items, including a branded vodka (shown at left).
Judge Zilly held that Washington’s 2008 amendment to the state’s Personality Rights Act, allowing anyone to claim publicity rights in Washington, including those who had no connection to the state, was unconstitutional. As a result, Jimi Hendrix, who lived in New York when he died intestate in 1970, will no longer enjoy a statutory right for others to get his written consent to use his name, portrait, or picture for advertising or trade purposes.
Courtesy of Seattle Weekly’s blog on the subject, attorney Thomas T. Osinski Jr. issued the following comment, “As the attorney for the defending party, I am deeply gladdened that the Court has vindicated our long-held position that Washington’s Publicity Rights Act does not apply to Jimi Hendrix. It was a well thought out and thorough opinion that explained in detail how publicity rights, like so many other rights, need to be determined under the law of the state a famous person resided in at the time of their death. Washington’s Statute tried to upset that majority and common sense rule, and was struck down as a result.”