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JGM, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 12067
Experience:  30 years as a practising solicitor.
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Abuse gain of famous dead relative. I wonder

Customer Question

Abuse for financial gain of famous dead relative.
I wonder if you could help guide and assist me with a matter regarding the quite substantial use for commercial gain of my Great Great Uncle's fame and exploits, image and personality etc.
I have read a few articles in various journals that touch upon these issues and have also read this page and if anything else, I believe that there must be some measures I can take.
My Great Great Uncle - Frederick Selous (FC Selous) was arguably the most famous African Explorer, Hunter, Conservationist of the late 1800's. He went on to worldwide notoriety during his life, and even today he is regarded as a 'benchmark' for many people involved in various outdoor sports and activities. He has been depicted in various big screen films, TV serialisations and often quoted in documentaries about Africa.
FC Selous was killed in East Africa Campaign during the 1st World War in January, 1917. He had 2 sons by his marriage one of whom was killed in the First World War and the other passing away some years later unmarried, so there are no there are no direct living descendants.
My Great Grandmother was FC Selous's sister. When she married she adopted the surname of Selous-Jones which is my name.
Growing up as a young boy my life was profoundly influenced by his books, many African souvenirs and his life's accounts as described by my Grandmother.
With the availability of the internet, stories and articles about FC Selous have been readily available which Is quite right. However, in the last few years I have discovered many companies appearing using his name, image, his biography etc to promote their products, and some companies even naming their top model 'The Selous'. These are occurring in many countries including The USA, Germany, countries in Africa including Zimbabwe and of course the U.K.
The public perception must be that that the Selous family estate and its heirs would be in receipt of financial reward, which is not the case.
Some examples are:-
I do not believe anybody from the 'Selous' family had been looking after his achievements and personality, or indeed are aware of this abuse of his name. Certainly not since my father died nearly 50 years ago.
I want to find out if there is any action possible because this appalling mis-management of my Great Uncle's legacy is causing me considerable concern. Is it possible to register myself as a trustee of the Selous name? Where might I be able to get some help on this and am I able to take some action?
It would be greatly appreciated by me if you could advise me in some way.
Many thanks
Peter Selous-Jones
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  JGM replied 1 year ago.
Few jurisdictions have laws that protect the rights of dead celebrities and certainly under UK law there would be no protection in the absence of a prior trademark that had been passed on to the family. In the US some states do recognise celebrity rights after death. See the US Celebrity Rights Act 1985 applicable to the state of California. However even that only applies up to 70 years from the death of the person concerned. Unless there is an existing will or trust which dealt with this during the lifetime of your great uncle, which would be very unusual, I don't think you can do anything other than to attempt to trademark his name which may give you some limited protection, but I cant say I would be too optimistic about that as I'm sure you have also thought when doing your researches. I hope that answers your question. Please leave a positive rating so that I am credited for my time.