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Monday, June 16, 2008

Actor Joins Abuse of Dead in New York

Celebrities seek change in New York State law
Newsday by JAMES T. MADORE ( - June 11, 2008

ALBANY- Actor Martin Sheen, who played the president on the hit television drama "The West Wing," was expected Thursday to bring his star power to the state Capitol on behalf of controversial legislation that aims to protect the reputations of dead celebrities. New York is one of only two states where a famous person's photograph, voice or signature can be used for commercial purposes after they die without permission from their heirs or estate. More than a dozen celebrities, including singer Liza Minnelli, actor Al Pacino, and relatives of baseball legends Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Mickey Mantle, are lobbying for protections against a flood of tacky T-shirts and coffee mugs.

But the bill faces opposition from photographers, cable TV systems, motion picture producers and publishers of newspapers, magazines and books, which said the proposed restrictions violate First Amendment rights and could potentially impact newsgathering. Sheen has been enlisted by the estate of film icon Marilyn Monroe to press for action before the state Legislature adjourns June 23. "My understanding is Martin Sheen will be visiting legislators and expressing his support for the post mortem right of publicity bill," said William T. Cunningham, a spokesman for the celebrity lobbyists. A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) confirmed that he would be meeting with Sheen.

The driving force behind the bill has been Monroe's estate, which lost several court cases trying to defend her reputation from unauthorized merchandise such as T-shirts. Monroe's heirs, along with other notables, approached state Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) and Assemb. Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn) about legislation, which was introduced May 31, 2007, but went nowhere because the Legislature recessed a few days later. Despite its glamorous backers, the bill faces an uphill fight for adoption. "It's a difficult bill to get a consensus on. ... We'll be negotiating with the various parties for the next week or so," Golden said. The bill's language is too broad and shouldn't apply to celebrities that have already died, according to the American Society of Media Photographers.

Diane Kennedy, president of the New York Newspaper Publishers Association, agreed, saying that unless the bill was amended, it would invite "frivolous lawsuits" that would "impinge on newsgathering." Newsday is an association member. The legislation received a boost last fall when California lawmakers strengthened a law adopted in 1984 at the behest of the estate of actor John Wayne and others. In Albany, rumors have swirled around the Capitol that film star Sophia Loren recently called Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick) about the bill. Asked about Loren's involvement, Cunningham said he believed the call had been made. But Loren's publicist, Carlo Giusti Productions in Italy, couldn't provide confirmation, and Bruno's office declined to comment.

****end of Newsday article ****

For actor Martin Sheen, Albany trip stirs memories of Island The star, who lived in St. George, meets borough lawmakers while lobbying for 'dead celebrities' bill
The Staten Island Advance by KAREN O'SHEA - June 13, 2008

STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE -- "West Wing" star Martin Sheen went to the state Capitol yesterday to lobby for the "dead celebrities" bill, which would protect deceased stars from unauthorized, commercial use of their image, but he ended up reminiscing with a delegation of Staten Island lawmakers about the time he lived in this borough. Sheen recalled watching movies at the St. George Theatre, playing golf at the Silver Lake course and delivering his second son, Ramon Estevez, in 1963 in the living room of his apartment at 30 Daniel Low Terr. Sheen and his wife, Janet, are also the parents of actors Emilio ("The Mighty Ducks") Estevez, Charlie ("Two and a Half Men") Sheen and Renee Estevez. "We talked about how (Silver Lake) is still the same course and how he loved Staten Island and how he'd like to come back at some point -- so we extended the invitation," said Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island), who lives next door to the city golf course.

According to an article on Sheen's Web site, the actor, one of 10 children, lost his mother when he was 11 and spent much of his youth working as a caddie in Ohio. He said the experience forced him to see the differences between the "haves and the have-nots." He has refused to join a private club ever since, opting instead to golf at public courses and carry his own bag.
"I let him know that he has to come back to see the renovated St. George Theatre," added Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-North Shore), who also met with Sheen. Titone, a lawyer, is a member of the Assembly Judiciary Committee that is considering the actors' legislation. Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer (D-Mid-Island/Brooklyn) also serves on the committee and conferred yesterday with Sheen. Titone lived briefly during the 1980s in Sheen's former apartment building, the same place actor Paul Newman called home for a time.

Titone said Sheen was in town to lobby for a bill to protect the images of celebrities after they die. New York law protects most living celebrities from the unauthorized use of their images, but Titone said there is nothing on the books that clearly delineates what the rights and limitations are when it comes to deceased celebrities. Sheen, best known for his role as American President Jed Bartlet on NBC's "The West Wing," and other big-name stars are lobbying the state to change state law to require approval from a deceased celebrity's estate before an image can be used for commercial purposes. Karen O'Shea is a news reporter for the Advance. She may be reached at


Anonymous said...

don't die in New York! Everyone know that the dead are fair game for the New York robbers.

Anonymous said...

New York's problems are much more serious than trying to pass a bill not allowing the usage of DEAD celebrity pics. Why not ask some of these celebrities to stand up and help the people that are battling "criminal corruption" within the Court System?

Anonymous said...

I second your comment! If the NY court system is so crooked, that means it will be coming to your town..soon..and maybe even worse! NY is the power state of this what happens here, does not stay here!

Anonymous said...

the injustice system also mistreats the living as well, you don't have to be dead

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See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
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