Anything for Selenas? A Right of Publicity Case Study

AuthorLizbeth Lopez, Scott J. Sholder
Published in Landslide® magazine, Volume 13, Number 2, a publication of the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law (ABA-IPL), ©2020 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.
This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.
Meeting of the Minds
Anything for Selenas? A Right of Publicity Case Study
By Lizbeth Lopez and Scott J. Sholder
posthumous stardom, largely due to
her continuing popularity and the 1997
biopic starring Jennifer Lopez.9 Still top-
ping the Billboard charts, the late singer
remains one of the most inuential Latin
artists of all time, selling more than 60
million albums worldwide.10
Selena’s lasting pop culture inu-
ence is also arguably partly attributable
to her father, Abraham Quintanilla, who
keeps strict control over his daughter’s
name, image, and likeness.11 As the
administrator of Selena’s estate, Quint-
anilla regularly receives nancial offers
to use Selena’s postmortem publicity
rights for the sale of licensed products
and rights in her life story.12 Despite
the potential to collaborate with many
different brands and businesses, Quin-
tanilla is very selective about granting
the use of his daughter’s rights, only
approving products or services deemed
“high quality.13 This “high quality”
characterization is Quintanilla’s method
to reap large commercial prots off of
the Grammy winner’s image (which,
as discussed herein, often translates to
forgoing opportunities to work with
minority artists and brands). Indeed,
Quintanilla has made his monetary
objectives clear, publicly stating that
the singer’s estate does not make deals
unless there is a high nancial incentive
from an offeror whose “compensation
is commensurate with the exploitation
and value” of Selena’s identity rights.14
Prior to her death, Selena had started
merican pop culture is pervasive
and infectious, particularly the
fascination with celebrity cul-
ture.1 Fans’ objectication of celebrity
wealth and fame creates an aura of oth-
erworldliness that separates celebrities
from the average American.2 This idealiza-
tion inspires younger generations to reach
greater heights, and they often credit celeb-
rities as their role models.3 This especially
seems to hold true in the Latinx commu-
nity, who use artists as a way to connect to
their heritage and identity.4
Among the many famed Latin music
artists, Selena Quintanilla stands out
as a favorite for many.5 Despite her
passing 25 years ago, Selena’s image
continues to dominate contemporary
pop culture, inspiring all genera-
tions, especially artists and creators.6
Recently, a lawsuit between Fúchila
Fresheners, a small Latinx-owned busi-
ness, and Selena’s father, Abraham
Quintanilla, arose due to the creation of
unauthorized car air fresheners depict-
ing Selena’s likeness.7 This article
discusses the legal intricacies in right of
publicity lawsuits in California through
the lens of this case.
The 25th Anniversary of
Selena’s Tragic Death and Her
Commercial Legacy
On March 31, 2020, 25 years after
Selena’s death, fans all over the world
honored her short but impactful career.8
The star’s passing launched her into
Lizbeth Lopez is a JD candidate at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. She is interested in practicing in the intersection of intellectual
property and entertainment. She can be reached at Scott J. Sholder is a partner with Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams
& Sheppard LLP and cochair of the rm’s litigation practice group. His practice focuses on litigation, counseling, and dispute resolution in
connection with entertainment, media, and intellectual property matters. He can be reached at
branching out as a businesswoman by
designing her own fashion line.15 But
contrary to her principles, the Tejana
superstar’s image has only been used
by her father in connection with mas-
sive non-Latinx, non-female-owned
corporations such as MAC Cosmet-
ics, Forever 21, and Urban Outtters.16
Quintanilla even refused to make a deal
for the use of Selena’s rights in connec-
tion with Chris Perez (a Latino writer
and his former son-in-law), until he
succeeded in a legal battle in the Texas
state and appellate courts to obtain prof-
its from Perez’s project.17
Abraham Quintanilla’s
Enforcement Efforts Appear
A Texas native and resident, Quintanilla
holds Selena’s statutory postmortem
right of publicity for 25 more years in
Texas.18 Although the Latin music queen
deeply respected her fans, over the
past quarter of a century, her father has
legally intimidated many fan-creators
with cease and desist letters, including
a Selena fan club website operator and
many small businesses that sell uniquely
designed shirts, keychains, and pins
bearing Selena’s name or likeness.19
In 2019, Selena’s father continued
his tactics by ling suit in California
against Fúchila Fresheners, a small yet
budding Latinx business selling car air
fresheners bearing Selena’s likeness, for
allegedly violating his late daughter’s
Making a Connection between Young IP Attorneys
and Those Who Want to Share Their Experience
“Meeting of the Minds” is a recurring feature of Landslide® magazine. It includes articles authored by young lawyers
in conjunction with experienced attorneys, who participate as mentors in the planning and writing process. Landslide is
proud to provide the opportunity for young lawyers and law students to learn from attorneys in IP practice areas and to get
published in our prominent legal magazine. The end product is a collaboration for which both authors share attribution.

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