Internet-related law touched several varieties of entertainment in a recent legal decision.  NBA star Gilbert Arenas, notable for bringing guns into the locker room in addition to his scoring ability, had attempted to block the airing of the Basketball Wives Los Angeles reality TV spin-off.  His former girlfriend is to appear in the series.

The Orlando Magic player’s failed attempt to obtain a preliminary injunction stopping the show was apparently unartfully centered on trademark infringement and right of publicity/misappropriation of likeness claims.  It has always been difficult for a public figure to succeed on such claims where there is not such direct misappropriation that, e.g., the person’s merchandise sales could be diverted to unauthorized sources.  Recall, also, that a trademark is not just a name or picture, but must essentially be a branding mark used to designate the source of particular goods or services.  It was not clear in this instance exactly what trademark Arenas was citing.

The judge handling the matter in the Federal District Court in Los Angeles indicates that it is perhaps becoming more difficult for a celebrity who uses social media to succeed in reserving rights associated with his likeness and “private” affairs.  Part of the ruling was issued in reliance on the First Amendment rights accorded the show’s purveyors.  Of particular note, however, is that Arenas’ substantial use of and following on Twitter were major factors.  Arenas’ Tweets regarding such ordinary activities as the brushing of his teeth were declared to be at odds with his argument that his personal life was not a matter of public concern and was deserving of a privacy shield.

Another testament that the evolution of social media law and Internet law has gravity across many areas of culture.

For additional context on this case, click here.

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