Eleventh Circuit rejects publicity rights claim for Rosa Parks

In a well-known case, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld a publicity rights claim brought by the estate of Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King Jr. for Social Change v. American Heritage Products, 296 S.E.2d 697 (Ga. 1982). The court enabled the estate to prevent the sale of plastic busts of Dr. King by a seller who had not been authorized to do so by the estate. However, in Rosa and Raymond Parks Inst. for Self-Development v. Target Corp., 2016 WL 25495, the Eleventh Circuit found that the Michigan Constitution's guarantee of free speech rights prevented recognition of publicity rights in the estate of Rosa Parks. The seller in that case marketed various items adorned with images of Rosa Parks or which concerned her life, including a plaque showing Parks with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., six books, and a movie. The court found that Michigan's state constitutional protections for free speech included a "qualified privilege to report on matters in the public interest" and that all the items, including the plaque, contained information of an historical nature protected by this constitutional right.