Personalised e-card / storybook likenesses

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Bindar
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Personalised e-card / storybook likenesses

Post by Bindar » Mon Mar 06, 2017 2:03 am

Hello, thank you for this excellent platform! I had a search of the forum for similar questions, but I think my question is a little unique. It's also a little difficult to explain, so please bear with me:

I'm looking into creating a personalised e-card / storybook business where the USP is the ability to fully customise the appearance of the recipient(s). A user could visit a website, supply fairly detailed appearance information about the recipient (name, height, face etc), who would then be sent an interactive e-card or physical book made to those specifications.

Such services are nothing new, of course, but generally the options tend to be quite limited - choosing e.g. a hair colour, skin colour, and a name. What I'd be looking to do is bring things more in-line with, say, RPG videogames where the character-creation tools are much more advanced - what nose, shape of chin, etc.

This, however, has me worried about issues of Personality Rights. While the style I have in mind is a non-realistic, cartoon look, the tool would still be good enough to create a likeness of the person the customer is making it for - and so by extension, good enough to create the likeness of celebrities etc.

RPG games have long gotten away with this because the purchased-product itself features no likenesses, and it's up to the user to create them. The key difference here is that my service would be used to embed the likeness within the finished product itself: the look is chosen before purchase.

Of course, I could "tone-down" the tool so that it's much more simple (such as with the Thomas book), but then that removes the USP - and really, the whole point of the service.

I would be very glad of any advice you can share in this matter! Thank you for reading.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:16 am

Hi Bindar,

Since this is a site about copyright, mainly in the context of UK law, you might be better off asking about this on a site which deals with US law, since the USA has the most widely applied Publicity Right law. I don't think the ordinary right to privacy which exists in many countries, including the UK, is impacted by your idea.

That said, although your idea would probably amount using a person's likeness, I don't see your proposal as actually engaging any personality rights legislation, even the most stringent of these laws (say California or Indiana). It appears that the only person who would see the resulting image would be the recipient/subject themselves, therefore the image would not be 'published' in the sense that the legislation requires. Also it could be argued that there is no commercial use of the image, even though presumably your service would be a commercial operation.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

Bindar
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Post by Bindar » Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:02 am

Thank you for the response, AndyJ - that's encouraging!

I'll follow your suggestion of taking my query to a Stateside-forum. That's a good point about the non-published nature of the product. I expect someone would try to post their gift on e.g. Youtube, but presumably any issue arising from that would then be down to them.

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