Yesterday the Authors Guild sent out an alert to its members that the organization, along with the Association of American Publishers, have publicly denounced a bill on the floor of the New York State Legislature that could allow heirs the legal right to block the use of photographs and other likenesses of deceased public figures who passed away after January 1, 1938. PW Daily explains that if the bill passes, it would create a “posthumous ;right of publicity'” that could, potentially, threaten the work done by historians, biographers and even novelists.
The bill has been introduced in two forms, according to Authors Guild sources. The Assembly version, which the Guild says could be voted on very soon and “would most likely pass,” and the Senate one, which the Guild thinks is “on a slower track.” Because the two versions of the bill do not exclude literary works from their scope, the Guild has urged its members to oppose the legislation by contacting their representatives. AAP director of communications Judy Platt, who said said “the bill, as written, is a disaster,” added that it is already being supported by some high profile celebrities like Al Pacino and Yoko Ono. Michael Gross also supports vetoing the bill and explains why: “Put simply, the bill stifles free speech, and in America, we don’t do that unless there’s a compelling reason. In this case, there is no compelling reason.”