By Hayden Wright
Following Prince’s death, countless vendors sought to capitalize on the grief and commemorative spirit that captured the world. T-shirts and other tribute merchandise flooded the Internet and local establishments in the musician’s home state of Minnesota, prompting Republican Rep. Joe Hoppe to introduce a bill that would set limits on how an artist’s likeness can be used—while alive and posthumously.
Recently, Hoppe pulled from the State House floor because it was moving forward too quickly and had the potential to present “unintended consequences,” reported Billboard.
The bill was informally titled the “Prince Bill” and proposed a yet-unexplored “right to publicity.” It would have given estates more control over how the subject’s image could be used. Executors for Prince’s estate publicly supported the legislation.
“It’s a stopgap measure that recognizes that claim continues to exist even upon death,” said Joel Leviton, a Minneapolis attorney at the Bremer Trust, which was appointed to oversee Prince’s estate. “Hopefully, we’ll work together to come up with a more robust, comprehensive right of publicity statute.”
However, the measure was controversial: Advocates for free speech suggested the law shifted burden onto creators (merchandisers, writers, artists, vendors) to prove their First Amendment rights in court before engaging in those commercial activities. Presently, the burden falls on the state to bring charges or executors to seek civil damages in intellectual property disputes.
Hoppe plans to return with a new version of the bill next year.