- Associated Press - Saturday, March 7, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A South Dakota “Right of Publicity” bill designed to protect the legacy of the late Native American activist Russell Means needs a Senate vote in the final week of the legislative session if it is to become law.

The measure, backed by Republican Rep. Elizabeth May, of Kyle, would prohibit the unauthorized commercial use of a personality’s right of publicity and allow for the collection of damages if a person’s public persona were used to make money without authorization.

May drafted the legislation, she said, because Pearl Means wants to build a museum to honor her late husband, American Indian Movement leader Russell Means.

For that to happen, May said, the state has to have a right of publicity law in place, protecting things like a personality’s name, voice, and likeness from being used in the commercial setting without that person’s permission, South Dakota Public Broadcasting (https://bit.ly/1CM5Quy ) reported.

Russell Means was an activist and leader within the American Indian Movement, a group whose fight for Native American rights drew national attention throughout the 1970s. Means became an actor later in life, appearing in films such as “Last of the Mohicans” and “Natural Born Killers.” He died in 2012 at age 72.

“It not only is going to protect Mr. Means’s legacy, but it’s also going to protect his family,” May said. “This is a perfect way to send a message that the legacy of Russell Means, whether you agreed or disagreed with him politically, he was a huge influence for the Native American people.”

The Senate meeting last week drew representatives from the Motion Picture Association, who support the measure, and people with organizations that represent national football, basketball and other player’s associations, who don’t support the bill.

Opponents said the measure doesn’t fully account for new technologies. Kevin Goering, a lawyer in New York City, said one particular section of the bill replaces every other law that has anything to do with the right of publicity.

Goering said the South Dakota bill could have national implications.

“It’s important because these statutes, one by one, add to the nationwide pattern of the right of publicity and how it is enacted state by state,” Goering says.

The full House and a Senate committee have passed the measure, but consideration in the full Senate was deferred to next week, the final week of the 2015 legislative session.


Information from: KUSD-FM, https://www.sdpb.org

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