Now There’s Some Chutzpah for You

Murderer sues publishers for writing a book about the murders, claiming that the book violated his statutory “right of publicity.” To be sure, a state statute does provide, “Any person whose name, portrait, or picture is used within the state or advertising purposes or for the purposes of trade without his or her written consent may bring an action in the superior court against the person so using his or her name, portrait, or picture to prevent and restrain the use thereof, and may recover damages for any injuries sustained by reason of such use.” But, unsurprisingly, courts have read such statutes as excluding books, movies, and other publications about events (both current and past) that involved real people; the court quite rightly threw the case out.

The case is Day v. Pingitore, 2011 WL 2170414 (R.I. Super. May 26) (Trial Order). The plaintiff is Kenneth Day, who (along with four others) murdered Jason Burgeson and Amy Shute; the defendants’ book is Thrill Killers.