The interaction of the influences of law, contract, and social norms on the commercialisation of persona
: a comparative empirical study of the United Kingdom and the United States of America

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the interaction of the influences of law, contract, and social norms in the commercial regulation of persona: name, voice, likeness and signature. It compares the UK, with its piecemeal legal protection, utilising passing off as the main cause of action, against the US which has state-based rights of publicity, as well as false endorsement under the Lanham Act. Persona protection in existing literature is examined through doctrinal analysis of case law and theoretical justifications. This thesis makes an original contribution to the field as it presents a new perspective on persona protection, in the form of empirical analysis through an ‘influences on behaviour’ framework. Behaviours are identified in the advertising, merchandising, film and television, and video game industries. These behaviours are then analysed by considering what influences apply, and why. With this in mind, the research question is: ‘What is the interaction of the influences of law, contract and social norms on behaviours which regulate persona in the UK, as compared to the US where a right of publicity exists?’ The thesis argues that similar behaviours exist across jurisdictions as the influences interact, but the role of law and the divergence in legal frameworks result in a contrast in the dispute resolution sphere. As such, while the transactional spheres in both jurisdictions are similar, US claimants are more likely to seek and be redressed for unauthorised use of persona, in comparison to UK claimants.
Date of Award1 May 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorTanya Aplin (Supervisor) & Emily Hudson (Supervisor)

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