I see unauthorized, unflattering books in the US about celebrities all the time that use that celebrity's image on the book (clearly NOT with their express permission) - because the book is non-fiction/editorial there is no redress for that celebrity wrt their right of publicity in a particular US state (for example, California)? (this is not a photo copyright question)

I'm finishing up a self-published book about the making of an old movie. I've long since decided to give the book a plain cover to avoid issues regarding US actors right of publicity, but like many things in this area it seems a bit grey and I'm curious.

See Are Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) of public athletes protected by copyright?

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    Right of publicity is only existent in some countries
    – Trish
    Commented May 29, 2022 at 13:13
  • Good point. I'll clarify my question. Commented May 31, 2022 at 19:49
  • 2
    and only some US states recognize a right of publicity. Of those that do, the terms vary. Commented May 31, 2022 at 19:53
  • That's true; as far as I'm aware there are no federal statutes pertaining to rights of publicity. Commented May 31, 2022 at 20:33

1 Answer 1


Some but not all US states, and some but not all countries, recognize a "right of publicity".

In Ohio, the "Right of publicity" is protected by Chapter 2741 of the Ohio Revised Code. This right extends to various aspects of a person's "persona", and may be enforced by a civil suit.

In Ohio such a cover image would be a violation of the right of publicity unless the work on which it appears, or whch it is used to promote is a "historical work", a "literary work" or a "work of fiction". Those uses are exempt from these rights.

  • For clarification, did you cite Ohio as a random example, or does it represent one extreme? To find out if one can legally put Bill Gates' picture on the cover of a book about Bill Gates that is published not in Ohio but in California, Washington, etc. one would just have to research the law in those particular states, right?
    – Paredon
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 18:00

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