Clinton Township, MI asked in Copyright, Business Law and Entertainment / Sports for Virginia

Q: I'm opening up a restaurant and wanted to know if I'm able to hang up purchased pictures of Muhammad Ali I'm not selling

Want to purchase pictures of sports memorabilia and then hang it in the restaurant for design but I'm not sure if I'm allowed to do that

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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A: Generally, purchasing and displaying sports memorabilia, like pictures of Muhammad Ali, in your restaurant for decorative purposes is permissible. This falls under the concept of "fair use," particularly if the memorabilia is being used in a way that doesn't imply endorsement or association with the person depicted and you're not using it for commercial gain beyond decorating your establishment.

However, it's important to consider the source of these images. If you're buying legitimate copies of these pictures, such as officially licensed prints or photographs from a reputable dealer, you are typically within your rights to display them in your restaurant. Make sure that the images are purchased legally and are not counterfeit.

Be mindful that if the images are used in a way that suggests an endorsement or affiliation with Muhammad Ali or his estate, or if they're used in promotional materials for your restaurant, this could potentially infringe on rights of publicity. Rights of publicity involve using someone's likeness for commercial purposes, which can be a legal concern if it implies endorsement.

If in doubt, consulting with a legal professional can provide guidance specific to your situation, particularly as it pertains to intellectual property and rights of publicity. This can help ensure that your use of such memorabilia is within legal boundaries and does not infringe on any third-party rights. Remember, while decoration is a creative aspect of your business, it's always wise to approach it with an understanding of the relevant legal considerations.

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