Recently, Carrie Fisher discussed the impact (or lack thereof in this case) Princess Leia had on her life. The article, which appeared in Newsweek starts as follows:
The mistake was I signed away my likeness for free. In those days, there was no such thing as a “likeness,” which is a funny thing to say coming from the family that I came from. There was no merchandising tied to movies. No one could have known the extent of the franchise.
“Other than Disney it’s hard to think of one person who exploited the merchandising element of the Hollywood blockbuster better and more profitably than Lucas did with Star Wars.” (Glynnis MacNicol, www.businessinsider.com, September 19, 2011) And, none of the actors in the original Star Wars franchise have benefited from the Lucas marketing juggernaut. That’s not likely to happen in today’s Hollywood.
States across the country (and California in particular) have passed legislation which allows celebrities, and the Average Joe/Jane who uploads photos to Flickr, to protect their likeness from misappropriation or a violation of the right to publicity.
However, consent is a complete defense to any such legal claim. And Ms. Fisher apparently consented to any use of her Princess Leia persona all those years ago. As a result, all she can do is write articles complaining about it, rather than rectify the apparent injustice.