On June 21, 2021, one of the biggest sports stories in a generation involved the Supreme Court issuing its decision in National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston. It forever changed the world of college sports, enabling college athletes to control and profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL). These arrangements are known as NIL deals.
What is the right to publicity?
While the NIL rules apply to all college athletes, California and many other states have right-to-publicity laws that apply to everyone, whether they are celebrities, public servants or even the average person. Right to publicity involves name, image and likeness, giving the individual the right to protect their economic interests from commercial misappropriation of someone’s personae.
An extension of the right to privacy
The right to privacy is the precursor and foundation for the right to publicity and NIL. The right to privacy protects personal and emotional interests. Those guilty of violating the right to privacy must pay damages. The damages are based on the market value of an individual’s identity, the profits earned through the infringement and damage to the individual’s future ability to capitalize on their personae.
NIL under the right to publicity
NIL falls under the right to publicity because it prevents businesses, schools, retailers and others from using an individual’s name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness. Under NIL, right to publicity and right to privacy, college athletes can get paid for the following:
- Promote products through social media posts and appearances
- Sponsorship by companies
- Paid appearances
- Autograph sales
- Endorsement deals
- Private training camps or clinics
While some athletes have deals with national or international companies, there are also more modest ones involving local or regional businesses. Whatever the context, Californians are covered under Civil Code Section 3344.
Enforcing these protections
There are still a lot of grey areas when it comes to the right to publicity and NIL deals for student-athletes and others. Student-athletes who have questions about NIL deals can always contact a sports lawyer to make sure that the deal will not create any unexpected issues for them.