Rights of publicity pass to the heirs of celebrities who are residents of California when they die. A hologram performance by Tupac Shakur (who died in 1996) at this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is a right which passed to his mother when he was shot.
Proper estate planning in California can help direct where revenue from those rights will go long after the person died.
California Civil Code section 3344 is for the publicity rights of living persons, while Civil Code section 3344.1, known as the “Astaire Celebrity Image Protection Act,” grants statutory post-mortem rights which prohibit the unsanctioned use of the “name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness on or in products, merchandise or goods” of any person.
Civil Code Section 3344.1 requires any person claiming to be successor-in-interest to the rights of a deceased personality under Section 3344.1 register the claim with the Secretary of State’s Office. This is not a mandatory filing, however.
There is some question as to how those rights should be value and taxed at the time of death. If holograms become profitable, the IRS might start looking into taxing them. This may not be too different from commercials, endorsements and other publicity which can be very valuable assets worth taxing at death.
For tax planning by an experienced California lawyer, call Mitchell A. Port at (310) 559-5259.