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CalAttorney2, Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Civil litigation attorney for individuals and businesses.
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For 10+ years Ive owned (as a collectible) letter+medical

Customer Question

For 10+ years I've owned (as a collectible) letter+medical records+pics taken on admission & release, of legendary entertainers' estate lawyers who claim I'm violating (HIPPA not factor) privacy law etal in Calif if I sell pic rights to The Enquirer for Millions. What are Calif laws and am I open to that claim and/or others? Pics "owned" originally by hospital where took. They discarded 10 years ago and these documents have been available to the public (full knowledge of estate lawyers mentioned and who never legally challenged or reported to law enforcement claiming "stolen property" etc.) for ten years but no buyers....until me now. How best to prove I own rights that The Enquirer wants to buy from me IF they are convinced I can rightfully sell rights to them to use pics in-print and without legal jeopardy for them.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 3 years ago.

William B. Esq. :

Dear Customer, thank you for using our service. My name is Bill and I would like to assist you today.

William B. Esq. :

Assuming that HIPPA and other medical confidentiality laws are not at issue, the one legal claim that you may be facing is the tort of "right of publicity" where an individual (or his estate) has a right to financially benefit on their own work, and the use or reproduction of materials made without their permission but "trading on" their name or success is improper. This tort usually involves things such as making t-shirts with a famous person's photo, or using a famous person's signature saying for personal profit. This is a relatively new tort and some of the elements are still being developed, but that is the biggest issue I see to prevent publication as you have stated it.

William B. Esq. :

I hope the above is helpful, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to let me know and I will follow up quickly.

Thank you for using our service, please do not forget to rate my answer when you are satisfied. I am going to transfer our conversation to the "Q&A" format to ensure you can review the entire response and that I can follow up to any questions you may have quickly. I do wish you the best of luck in this matter.

William B. Esq. :

(As far as proving ownership - you will need to establish a "chain of title" showing that the documents were the property of the hospital (and not the patient), that they were intentionally discarded by the hospital, and that you are a "bona fide purchaser" meaning you gave something of value for the photos - here is a link that may be helpful to you in starting to track the chain of title with regard to ownership of medical records:

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Can you help further with this same issue? If I want to make as much profit as legally possible, wht suggestions do you have? That's the BIG question. Here are small portions of that. These med records are of a super-well-known celebrity who died over ten years ago. These records are from the 80's and were found in a park near the hospital where they originated and then sold on the Collectors market in full public view. Got bad pr but no claims of theft or anything illegal back then. Estate lawyers knew all of that too. They now rattling my cage. I'm thinking People Mag and National Enquirer paid six million plus for pics not nearly as newsworthy or interesting as these. But, how do I prove I have legal rights to license the sale or use of pics when, per HIPPA, originally these owned by the hospital who discarded and someone took from trash then found in park, then sold in th world of Collectibles? I have a written, notarized, statement of all facts here and that I'm new owner. Help!
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 3 years ago.
Dear Customer,

What you are looking for is a specific legal opinion. You need to speak with an attorney in person (I cannot give you a legal opinion through this website as it is the practice of law, we are restricted to providing "general legal information").

I simply do not have sufficient information to assist you further with this matter.

I will opt out, and perhaps another expert on this forum can assist you.
Expert:  Michelle-mod replied 3 years ago.

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