The Association of Magazine Media

Troubling Right of Publicity bill in New York State defeated | June 26, 2017

Dear MPA Board Members –

There is good news to report from our Washington, D.C. office this week. For several years now, our D.C. staff has been monitoring a Right of Publicity bill in New York. Until this year, the bills have never moved very far in the New York State Legislature so we haven’t had to mount a major effort against the bill. However, as you may recall from the Government Affairs reports at our Board meetings so far this year, 2017 is turning out to be a very active year on the state level, and the New York Right of Publicity bill was no exception.

This year’s bill, worse than previous year’s versions, wasn’t introduced in the New York Assembly until May 31st and a companion bill wasn’t introduced in the New York Senate until June 15 – with less than one week left in the legislative session. Despite the limited time remaining to pass the bill, the sponsor, Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, used his considerable clout to get the bill onto both the Assembly and Senate floors in just a matter of days.

MPA, in conjunction with other media organizations, including the New York Press Association and the Motion Picture Association of America, mobilized immediately, using members of the MPA Legal Affairs Committee to prepare an in-depth opposition letter, blanketing key legislative offices with our opposition message, and taking out a full page ad in the Albany Times-Union opposing the bill. We explained the chilling effect the overly broad bill would have on our ability to create magazine media content. We also reached out to several of you with strong New York presence to weigh in with your legislators and we thank you for your supporting efforts. As written, the bill would have allowed any individual or their descendants – anywhere in the world – to sue content creators for not receiving permission to use the individual’s likeness, characteristics, or even mannerisms. While the bill contained a limited exception for magazines, the bill also contained an exception to the exception and was so poorly worded that extended and expensive lawsuits would have been inevitable.

Our message received, Majority Leader Morelle pulled the bill at the last minute due to faltering support in the waning hours of the legislative session. While we are celebrating the outcome, it is possible that the legislation could be considered again next year. The Majority Leader and other sponsors of the legislation have indicated an interest in working on the bill over the legislative break in order to reintroduce it in 2018. Should those efforts materialize, MPA will be an active participant in discussions and negotiations to see if the bill can be made workable for the magazine media industry. If you have questions or want additional information, feel free to contact Jim Cregan, Rita Cohen, or Mary Holland in our Washington office.

All the best,

Linda Thomas Brooks
President and CEO | MPA -The Association of Magazine Media