My photo was taken while I was a part of a company based in California. It was used on printed corporate documents and web pages. I didn't sign any document of image usage by the company, but didn't mind while being employed as it indeed reflected my being a part of the company. Nothing in the employee handbook states that my image can in certain cases belong to my manager or be used for commercial purposes.

After my termination, I would like to ensure that my image will not be used by the company anymore. I do not work there anymore so it is inaccurate in suggesting I am a part of this company and endorse its activities, and I do not want my picture to be used for lucrative reasons, and without my consent now that I am no more part of the company. I am also not comfortable with them keeping too much personal information about me on their computers and outside of my control.

According to California law, can I request them to stop using these images in web and print, and delete them from their machines, as well as the promotional documents they appear on?

1 Answer 1


In California there are two recourses, the common law action of commercial appropriation, and a statutory version of the right of publicity, Cal. Civ. 3344. Subsection (c) however raises the question whether the picture "is only incidental, and not essential, to the purpose of the publication". If so, they could argue that they didn't know they failed to get consent, and you would have to show that they knew thy didn't have consent. It's not easy to tell what such an "incidental" use is, but perhaps if a person is in a large group photo that mentions "Happy employees frolic at annual picnic", that would be incidental whereas "Our Brilliant Coder John Doe Devises Fabulous Algorithm", it is not incidental. Some applicable case law is Newcombe v. Adolf Coors Co., 157 F.3d 686, Eastwood v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, 149 Cal.App.3d 409.

The matter of them deleting information about you from their computers is a separate thing. Assuming that they aren't publishing this information, they have the right and need to keep certain records about your employment. If an employee is terminated for insubordination, for example, the company would need to keep relevant records in case the employee decided to sue them a few years later.

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