On November 20, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law Senate Bill S5959D, a law that is highly important for New York based recording artists, actors, and other celebrities. The new law recognizes post-mortem rights of publicity to protect deceased performers from exploitation of their likeness for 40 years after death.
Specifically, the new law establishes the right of privacy and the right of publicity for both living and deceased individuals. It provides that an individual’s persona is the personal property of the individual and is freely transferable and descendible, meaning the rights can be exercised by the artist’s descendants. The new law provides for the registration with the department of state of such rights of a deceased individual, and that the use of a digital replica for purposes of trade within an expressive work is a violation of law. The legislation also creates a private right of action and new penalties for the publishing of sexually explicit images of individuals and “deep fakes” that are used to falsely depict individuals as engaging in sexual activity, protecting people from revenge porn.
The new law goes into effect on May 31, 2021 and will align New York with 23 other states that have statutory post-mortem rights of publicity.