UIC Review of Intellectual Property Law


Ryan Westerman


The pop-culture phenomenon of reality television has taken over national programming. With the click of a remote, viewers can gain an inside look into the daily lives of celebrity families, toddler pageant queens, wealthy housewives, even pregnant teenagers. Reality television also profiles different professions: repo-men, pawn shop owners, and real estate agents all have television time slots. While it seems everyone is desperate for their fifteen minutes of fame, there are still those who wish to avoid the public spotlight. However, a recent Illinois ruling may make avoiding prime-time attention impossible for certain individuals caught on tape in compromising, and potentially humiliating, situations. This Comment addresses how the questionable ruling in Best v. Berard may steer right of publicity jurisprudence in a disastrous direction by granting reality show producers the right to televise people committing insignificant legal infractions without their consent. By conceding First Amendment protection in such situations, producers may sensationalize such incidents to the detriment of the individual’s reputation without fear of liability. Yet preventative measures can be found in existing legal canons. As this Comment explains, copyright fair use doctrine provides a solution to this potential problem.