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In addition to and independent of the right of privacy, a man has a right in the publicity value of his photograph. This right might be called a "right of publicity." For it is common knowledge that many prominent persons (especially actors and ball-players), far from having their feelings bruised through public exposure of their likenesses, would feel sorely deprived if they no longer received money for authorizing advertisements, popularizing their countenances, displayed in newspapers, magazines, busses, trains and subways. This right of publicity would usually yield them no money unless it could be made the subject of an exclusive grant which barred any other advertiser from using their pictures.
Haelan Laboratories, Inc. (“Haelan”) and baseball players entered into contracts that provided Haelan with the exclusive right to use the players' photographs in connection with Haelan's gum sales. The players were not to grant any other gum manufacturer a similar right during such term, and Haelan had an option to extend the term. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. (“Topps”) induced the players to enter into contracts that authorized Topps to use the players' photographs in connection with sales of Topps’ gum either during the original or extended term of Haelan's contracts. Topps then used the players' photographs. Haelen filed a complaint against Topps alleging that it had induced a sports figure to breach his contract allowing Haelen the exclusive right to market his photograph. The district court dismissed Haelan’s complaint and Haelan appealed.
Did the district court err in dismissing Haelan’s complaint?
The Court reversed the district court's dismissal and remanded the matter to the district court for a determination of the date and contents of each of Haelan’s contracts, whether Haelan exercised its option to renew, and of Topps’ or its agent's conduct with respect to each such contract. Further, Topps was not liable for any breach induced by a non-agent. The Court recognized the right of publicity, which was in addition to the right to privacy, and this right to publication of a picture could have been subject to exclusive rights contracts under New York law.