I am a professional entertainer specializing in celebrity voice impersonations. I want to establish a new business that promotes and sells pre-recorded audio clips for telephone voice mail greetings and entertaining messages listeners can hear while placed on hold. For example, you dial a girlfriend who is away from their phone and voice sounding like Rodney Dangerfield answers. The voice says, “Your friend told me to come over because no one was home. She was right! No one is home! Leave a message …”My question concerns liability for selling voice impersonations I have created. What can I legally do in this context and what would be considered infringement on the intellectual property of the actual celebrity or the estate of the deceased celebrity?
State/Country relating to question: United States
Nothing so far just asking around...
Hello to Alex...
well this is a bit tricky because the impersonation won't be infringing a copyright...because its not a copy (and the sayings themselves are not protected by copyright)...but it could be aright of publicity issue
its not a clear are of law and it varies by state, but essentially if you are making money from a celebrity's name or likeness then there is a potential right of publicity problem
If I have a disclaimer after each voice to let the consumer know that it's an impression and not the actual celebrity would that be exceptable?
Such saying "celebrity voice impersonated by Rick Michel"
that would help in a trademark context but for right of publicity it would likely not help because whether or not its the actual celebrity voice does not matter
So what are my options?
I would get another opinion or two before making any decisions, but this is a very blurry area
idealy you would be safe and get permission, but that may be impractical/impossible
on the other hand, there is definitely risk in proceeding
some celebries or their estates may not discover your activity or care about it....but others might, that is another unpredictable variable...you don't know who will consider it a violation of their rights
i suggest taking a look here http://rightofpublicity.com/
that site also has a question submission form so you can get some free advice there
I am really at the same place I started when asking the question...
I don't know anymore than what I have been asking so far Alex...
Well this is not a settled area of law, but to do what you propose without permission will expose you to legal risk, so without permission from the celebrity or their estate, there will certainly be risk...and it depends somewhat on how strong the right of publicity laws are in your state (they vary by state)
I suggest you consult with a lawyer in your state with expertise in right of publicity law, which is a special area of IP law
Generally, the "Right of Publicity" laws would allow a celebrity to sue a voice talent who impersonates their voice for commercial purposes. However, Nevada's statutes, for example, specifically exempts impersonators from liability for infringement of a celebrity's right of publicity.
My state is Nevada which has very loose parameters of entertainment.
however, what i mentioned is likely limited to the act of impersonating....not the recording itself
But this would be going nationally, even though I live and my business is in Nevada
yes, and because you are doing the recording and it is for profit/commercial....it is a legal problem...even in Nevada
i also suggest seeing this source: http://www.citmedialaw.org/legal-guide/using-name-or-likeness-another
Experienced in intellectual property law
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