Robin Williams’ family is fighting over his property, but the late actor and comedian’s wife and children won’t be able to battle over something else: The commercial use of his name and likeness.
The Robin Williams Trust, filed as an exhibit in the ongoing legal war among the star’s loved ones, gives all rights to his name, signature, photograph and likeness to a charitable organization called the Windfall Foundation. Under the terms, the exploitation of Williams’ “right of publicity” is restricted for 25 years following his death. In other words, there can be no advertisement using Williams, nor can he be digitally inserted into a commercial venture, until August 2039.
By protecting his publicity rights, Williams both ensured that his famous name and face could not be exploited after his death, and limited the potential of the IRS to pursue taxes and penalties against his family and estate for the use of his public persona. There is currently a fight between the estate of Michael Jackson and the government over hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes stemming from the King of Pop’s publicity rights. Other dead celebrities have also been at the centre of legal battles over taxes.
Williams committed suicide last August at the age of 63. His widow, Susan Schneider Williams, is fighting his three adult children over the late star’s belongings. A court hearing has been postponed until June as the two sides try to negotiate.