Heirs of beloved Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks have recently taken a loss in a Michigan court.According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development filed suit against the Target Corporation for violating the Right of Publicity Law, which gives a celebrity control of products that utilize their image and likeness. The retailer is currently selling six books, a plaque and the CBS film, The Rosa Parks Story. In her ruling, Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, cited public interest as one of the reasons in which Parks’ image will continue to be available for sale by the retailer.
[su_quote cite="Robin S. Rosenbaum"]“Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of a discussion of the Civil Rights Movement without reference to Parks and her role in it. And Michigan law does not make discussion of these topics of public concern contingent on paying a fee,”[/su_quote]
[su_quote cite="Robin S. Rosenbaum"]“As a result, all six books, the movie and the plaque find protection in Michigan’s qualified privilege protecting matters of public interest,” [/su_quote]
[su_quote cite="Robin Rosenbaum"]“The use of Rosa Parks’s name and likeness in the books, movie, and plaque are necessary to chronicling and discussing the history of the Civil Rights Movement—matters quintessentially embraced and protected by Michigan’s qualified privilege,” [/su_quote]
[su_quote cite="Gwendolyn Thomas Kennedy Green, attorney for the institute"]“Basically what it says is the first amendment, which is your right to free speech allows you to take anybody who’s famous for any reason historically or musically to use their name and likeness to further whatever product you’re giving, and make a profit from it.”[/su_quote]
This isn’t the first time the heirs of her legacy have sued seeking to protect publicity rights. In April 2005, family members settled a lawsuit against OutKast, SONY BMG Music Entertainment, Arista Records L.L.C and LaFace Records who referenced the icon in their hit song “Rosa Parks,” singing ”Ah-ha, hush that fuss. Everybody move to the back of the bus.” During the case, OutKast had contended the song is neither false advertising nor a violation of Parks’ publicity rights and is protected by the First Amendment. In that settlement, the defendants were ordered to help develop educational programs to “enlighten today’s youth about the significant role Rosa Parks played in making America a better place for all races,” according to a statement, and work with the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute to promote Parks’ legacy. We all know the role that Rosa Parks played on our history and how her story needs to be told from generation to generation but how can a company make a profit off of her struggle. On top of that, how do you as a company continue selling and don't even make a donation to the foundation or to her family. How can you respect a company that knows Rosa Parks family has an issue with the selling of the material but you continue to sell the merchandise anyway.