Lit. crit. has noticed the existence of Southern gospel music, I'm sorry to say. As an English PhD, I hold that it's a sad day when the literary theory crowd notices the existence of anything good, and especially of any of those good things that involve a human sub-culture with its own special quality. Some assistant prof. in an English department has decided to write a book in, inter alia, "queer studies" about Southern gospel. Tenure seeking, perhaps? Because it deserves all the obscurity it can get, I hesitated to write a post that mentioned it.
However, since we have a few legally savvy people here, I did have one question that readers may be able to answer. Can he get away with using the photograph he has on the front cover without permission? The cover photo features four Southern gospel singers: Left to right, Scott Fowler, Mark Trammell, Glen Dustin, and Danny Funderburk. I think we can safely say that it would be a cold day in hell before these men would have given their permission for their images to be used on the cover of this book. Moreover (see below), since they are professional singers they make their living in part by the use of their own image to advertise their own products. Aren't there such things as publicity rights (which La Wik defines as "the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness or other unequivocal aspects of one's identity") to prevent this?
Here are what seem to me a few relevant quotations from the Illinois Code on the subject (since the book was published by the University of Illinois Press):
"Identity" means any attribute of an individual that serves to identify that individual to an ordinary, reasonable viewer or listener, including but not limited to (i) name, (ii) signature, (iii) photograph, (iv) image, (v) likeness, or (vi) voice.
a) A person may not use an individual's identity for commercial purposes during the individual's lifetime without having obtained previous written consent from the appropriate person or persons specified in Section 20 of this Act or their authorized representative.
I realize that the University of Illinois Press probably has its own legal eagles giving advice, but it's just barely possible that the use of this image was based on the assumption that Southern gospel artists aren't overly blessed with cash and wouldn't want to pay a lawyer to make a fuss. I would point out, however, that in case of a suit, section 55 makes it probable that the court would award attorney's costs to the prevailing party. And given what appears (to my non-professional eye) to be the clarity of the law on the relevant point, it might never need to come to a suit. Just a friendly letter from a lawyer requesting that they cease and desist the commercial use of these singers' images ought to be enough. If that fails, section 50 provides for a restraining order. Moreover, if punitive damages are sought, it should be relevant that the, er, nature of the book makes it plausible that people viewing the image and reading the blurb might think (untrue) things about the men pictured on the front cover which would be commercially damaging to them as professional singers in the Southern gospel milieu.
What do my readers think?