Actors Back Connecticut Bill to Protect Images

Three familiar faces from Hollywood urged Connecticut legislators Friday to help protect their images.

Actors Paul Newman, Christopher Plummer and Charles Grodin, all state residents, said they worry technology has made it possible to access their films, images and voices, and to use that material to produce another product they know nothing about.

"We are suddenly cloned into something we're not," Plummer said. "We are robbed of our individuality, and our life's work is tarnished."

A bill before the legislature's Judiciary Committee would forbid use of another person's "right of publicity," such as their name, voice, signature, photo, image, likeness, distinctive appearance, gestures or mannerisms, for commercial purposes without proper consent.

The legislation would extend that right until 70 years after the person's death.

The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the major film studios, opposes the bill in its current form. It fears the legislation could infringe on filmmakers' rights of expression and their ability to use old footage in their movies.

Stephen E. Nevas, a Westport attorney, said 19 states have enacted similar laws. There is a presumed right in Connecticut, he said, but legislators have never spelled out the details.

In addition, inexpensive computer technology makes it possible for someone to produce a new movie by reediting the original, Newman told the legislative committee.

"They could make a whole movie that looked like me, talked like me, acted like me, sounded like me, but wasn't me," he said.

Vans Stevenson, the motion picture association's senior vice president for state government affairs, said copyright law already covers some of those concerns. Also, in 1983, the Connecticut Supreme Court determined the state's privacy laws address a person's name or likeness.

The bill could even prevent parody of famous people, he said.

"Our position basically is, common law covers this," Stevenson said.