Abstract: This paper analyses the multiplicity of image rights in Europe and the classical conflictual relationship between the right to one’s own image and copyright law. First, the paper analyses the main mechanisms of legal protection of a person’s image in selected jurisdictions, in both the civil law and the common law tradition. It is deduced that the civil law approach based on the right of privacy or the right of personality is expressed mainly either via a duality, reflecting the extra-patrimonial and the patrimonial attributes to one’s own image, or via the recognition of a single right with a dual nature. On the other hand, the protection granted to the right to one’s own image in the United Kingdom is piecemeal in nature, since it is based on a broad interpretation of the classic torts of breach of confidence and passing off, which fails to provide a coherent and effective legal framework for protecting the intangible asset of a person’s image, both in terms of its dignitary and its economic identity. After pinpointing the major differences in terms of protecting the right to one’s own image in Europe, the emphasis is placed on the relationship between image rights and copyright law. A classic approach considers image rights as an external limitation of copyright law, and therefore typifies the relationship between image rights and copyright law as being primarily conflictual in nature. Nonetheless, it is also possible to focus on the convergences between the right to one’s own image and copyright law, since both refer to intangible assets that combine both extra-patrimonial and patrimonial interests. In this respect, copyright law could serve as a model for the eventual creation of a European patrimonial right to one’s own image. While the idea of promoting the recognition or establishment of a new intellectual property right for protecting the economic attributes of a person’s image in EU Member States’ domestic jurisdictions, inspired by the US publicity right, is not new, and has been advanced by doctrinal circles both in the civil law and in the common law tradition, the new borderless realities of the dissemination and commodification of image, and the affirmation of strong protection for the dignitary attributes of a person’s image by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights emphasise the need for, and the feasibility of, the construction of a European patrimonial right to one’s own image. The unique prototype of copyright law consisting of a synthesis of extra-patrimonial and patrimonial interests could be used as a model for building such a right.
Keywords: copyright law; image rights; right of publicity; personality; commodification of image; EU harmonisation
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Synodinou, T. Image Right and Copyright Law in Europe: Divergences and Convergences. Laws 2014, 3, 181-207.
Synodinou T. Image Right and Copyright Law in Europe: Divergences and Convergences. Laws. 2014; 3(2):181-207.
Synodinou, Tatiana. 2014. "Image Right and Copyright Law in Europe: Divergences and Convergences." Laws 3, no. 2: 181-207.