Industry & Advocacy News
June 22, 2007
The New York State Assembly and Senate adjourned their regular sessions yesterday without taking action on the “Dead Celebrities” bill. This is good news. This legislation would give heirs of anyone who died after January 1, 1938, the right to sue for unauthorized use in “advertising” or “for the purpose of trade” the “name, portrait, voice, signature or picture” of their deceased forebears. It clearly poses a significant threat to First Amendment rights.
We had a strong response from members to our alert — legislators reported that “many writers” were calling on the bill. Thanks to all of you who acted so speedily on our request.
Some of you were told by legislative staff that the bill has been “killed.” It hasn’t. It appears likely that it will be reconsidered in a special session of the legislature expected this summer. It’s not too late — nor too early for the anticipated special session — to register your opposition to the bill: please fax your letters to the legislators listed below. (If you’d like, you may borrow liberally from our letter, which follows.)
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (fax: 518-455-2448) Senator Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn, Sponsor of Senate bill) (fax: 518-426-6910) Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (fax: 518-455-5459) Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn,Sponsor of Assembly bill) (fax 518-455-5752)
Feel free to forward and post this message. The Authors Guild (www.authorsguild.org), is the nation’s oldest and largest society of published authors.
AUTHORS GUILD LETTER (similar letters went to the other legislators listed above)
June 20, 2007
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno Room 909 Legislative Office Building Albany, NY 12247
Dear Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno:
We have been monitoring the progression of Bill S.6005 and now feel compelled to express our deep concern over the danger this Bill poses to our rights of free speech. As you are aware, this Bill would modify Sections 50 and 51 of our Civil Rights Law in order to criminalize the unauthorized use in “advertising” and “trade” of “the name, portrait, voice, signature or picture” of anyone who died after January 1, 1938.
The flaws in this rushed piece of legislation are many. Here are a few:
Our historical record cannot be under the control of the heirs of the deceased, no matter how sympathetic some of these heirs may be. The chilling effect of this legislation would be immediate and dramatic. Without radical amendment to protect the free speech concerns of historians, biographers, novelists, journalists and playwrights, and the public, it has no place in the laws of our nation’s publishing capital.
On behalf of the more than 8,500 published authors of our guild — more than 2,500 of whom reside in New York, we urge that this legislation be dropped.
Paul Aiken Executive Director