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Appropriation occurs when a defendant uses a plaintiff’s name, likeness, or image without their permission for commercial purposes. Appropriation is one of several torts falling under the category of invasion of privacy. When a defendant uses a plaintiff's name or likeness for a newsworthy purpose, however, this does not fall under the tort of appropriation and can be used as a defense by defendants.

Generally in an appropriation case, the plaintiff must prove several elements. The California Jury Instructions regarding appropriation set out 5 essential factual elements for the jurors. The defendant used the plaintiff’s name or likeness, the plaintiff did not consent, the defendant gained a commercial benefit (or some other advantage), the plaintiff was harmed, and that the defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s harm. Jurisdictions differ slightly on these elements but they generally follow this format. 

See e.g., Blanch v. Koons 485 F. Supp. 2d 516 (2007).

[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]