The FreeBieber campaign — which seeks to raise awareness of the US illegal streaming bill that criminalizes the kind of YouTube cover songs Bieber launched his career with — has received a legal threat from Justin Bieber's lawyers, who allege that the campaign infringes on Bieber's publicity rights. But as this reply letter from the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains, they're wrong:
What's a little unusual here is that Bieber is also complaining that the campaign violates his publicity rights. The right of publicity usually prohibits the unauthorized use of a person's name, likeness, voice, or other identifiable characteristic for a commercial purposes. However, the law is clear that an individual's right to control uses of his or her name and likeness must be weighed against important free speech rights. The First Amendment protects transformative uses (like the ones at freebieber.org), especially those that do not intrude on a celebrity's market for her own identifiable characteristics. So it's hard to believe that Bieber's lawyers really think he can prohibit this lawful (and effective) use of his image. More likely they, like so many others, were just hoping to scare Fight for the Future out of exercising its free speech rights.