- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A publicity rights bill backed by relatives of legendary former Arkansas football coach Frank Broyles is getting a new chance as lawmakers meet for a special session this week.

Changes to the legislation designed to protect a person’s likeness have won over Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Motion Picture Association of America, which had said the original proposal was too broad. A spokesman for Hutchinson, who vetoed the measure last year, said the Republican governor plans to sign the reworked proposal into law if it’s approved by lawmakers at the special session that begins Thursday.

The bill, named after the 91-year-old Broyles, is aimed at preventing someone’s image from being used for commercial purposes without their permission. It was proposed after Broyles’ family had approached lawmakers with concerns that the popular football coach’s likeness could be used in unapproved ways.

“He’s the inspiration, but it’s going to affect everyone in the state,” said Republican Sen. Jon Woods, the bill’s sponsor. “We have so many celebrities and individuals in Arkansas as well as down the road who will benefit from this.”

The reworked bill includes clearer exemptions for noncommercial forms of speech, including newspapers, magazines, broadcasts, plays, books and other forms of artwork. Hutchinson last year said the bill he vetoed could have restricted free speech.

“The bill in its current form strikes the right balance between protecting the rights of famous individuals like Coach Broyles from the commercial exploitation of his name and image and at the same time provides a bright line exemption for expressive works that range from newspapers and photographs to motion pictures and television programs,” Vans Stevenson, the Motion Picture Association of America’s senior vice president state government affairs.

The Arkansas Press Association, which opposed the bill last year, is unlikely to oppose the measure in its current form, Executive Director Tom Larimer said. Facebook has also said it supports the revised measure.

The National Football League Players Association, which had supported the bill last year, has raised concerns about the broader exemptions. The group, along with players associations for the NBA, MLB, MLS and NHL, wrote Hutchinson and Woods a letter earlier this month opposing the new measure.

“This legislation purports to protect the property rights of an individual for the use of that individual’s name, voice, signature, and likeness. However, the commercial exemptions included in the bill are so broad that these protections would be made effectively null,” the groups said.

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists said it was concerned the bill would allow media companies to create “exact digital likenesses of personalities in audio visual works” without permission or payment.

“We can’t imagine anyone would want to see that occur, and we feel there is a simple fix,” Jeffrey Bennett, the group’s chief deputy general counsel for legal and government affairs, said in a statement. “We would like to see the Broyles family get the protections they deserve in Arkansas.”

Woods said the changes the groups are seeking would effectively kill the bill since it would lead to the same concerns Hutchinson raised about the initial version last year. Broyles’ family said it worked with the motion picture industry, photographers and other groups to come up with a compromise that addresses their concerns but protects free speech.

“Our intent with the bill has always been to prevent the unauthorized commercial use of a person’s likeness, voice or image,” Betsy Broyles Arnold, his daughter and the CEO of the Broyles Foundation, said in a statement. “We want to stop the egregious unauthorized uses.”

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo


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