Volume 101 - Issue 1 Georgetown Law Journal

The Inalienable Right of Publicity

This Article challenges the conventional wisdom that the right of publicity is universally and uncontroversially alienable. Although there are different definitions of alienability, I use the term in a broad sense to indicate that an entitlement is transferable in gross without any restrictions on its sale, donation, or ownership. Courts and scholars have routinely described the right of public- ity as such a freely transferable property right. The leading treatise author in the field, J. Thomas McCarthy, has observed that the “rule of free assignability in gross of the right of publicity has never been seriously questioned.” The Supreme Court of Georgia has gone even further, concluding that the right of publicity “could hardly be called a ‘right’” if it were not freely assignable. Thus, the right of publicity is most often described as sitting at one end of the alienability spectrum—that of free or complete alienability.

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