Answer To November 21st MBE Question

Issue: Whether the fan has a valid claim against the radio station for the use of his voice without his permission.

Rule: The  tort  of  appropriation  is  a  form  of  invasion  of  privacy.  A party who uses the name or likeness of another party for its own commercial benefit is subject to liability for appropriation. This tort  applies  to  the  use  for    promotion  or  advertisement  of  the defendant’s  business  or  product;  the  mere  fact  that  the    defendant  is  using  the  plaintiff’s  name  or  likeness  for  their  own  personal  profit  (e.g. the use of a celebrity name in a newspaper story), by itself, is not sufficient. Note that the use of a person’s name, picture, or likeness is allowed in a publication where the person’s picture is used to illustrate a matter of legitimate public concern.

Analysis: Here, the radio station recorded statements from the fan without obtaining his approval. Moreover,  the  radio  used  these  recorded  statements  in  promotions  and  commercials  for  the  radio  station. As such, the elements for appropriation are satisfied: the radio station used the “likeness” of the fan for its own commercial benefit.  Thus, (D) is the correct answer.

(D) is correct because the radio station used the fan’s name and voice without permission for its own commercial benefit.

(A) is  incorrect because  it is  irrelevant  that  the  fan  made  the  statement  over  the  radio;  what  is  relevant is the fact that his voice was then later used for the commercial benefit of the radio station.  No  approval  or  permission  can  be  implied  from  the  fan’s  public  statements  since  the  fan  called  solely to participate in the radio contest and only shouted the radio station’s name in response to the disc  jockey’s  request.    Without  any  approval  or  permission  from  the  fan,  the  radio  station  is  liable  for appropriation.

(B) is incorrect because truth and accuracy are not defenses to appropriation. It is irrelevant what the  substance  of  the  statement  is;  what  matters  is  that  it  was  used  for  commercial  benefit  without permission.

(C) is incorrect because the statement is not an intrusion into the fan’s private life; at issue is the fact that the statement was appropriated for commercial benefit.

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