DATE November 11, 2011
Costanza v. Seinfield
181 Misc. 2d 562; 693 N.Y.S.2d 897 (1999)
The plaintiff, Michael Costanza alleges that the television show, “Seinfield” has a character by the name of George Costanza who is based off of him without his consent. The character is bald, fat, has bad romantic relationships, and poor employment. Plaintiff alleges that “Seinfield” has portrayed him in a negative, humiliating, light and has been defamed by the defendants, and has had his privacy invaded.
Under the common law of New York does a person have the right to claim that their privacy is being invaded because a television show used a character with their last name and likeness?
Under New York’s civil rights law sections 50 and 51, does a person have the right to claim that his name was advertised or traded when a television show used his name or likeness for a character?
Arguments or Objectives of the parties:
The petitioner felt as though he was being degraded and had his privacy invaded by the respondent because the respondent used his last name and likeness for a character on the “Seinfield” sitcom. The petitioner felt like he was being defamed because the respondent called him a "flagrant opportunist who barely knew Jerry (Seinfeld) less than a year." The respondent felt he did no wrong, because the petitioner waived any claim because he appeared on the show.
The case was dismissed due to the state of New York not having a common-law claim for invasion of privacy. Also, the plaintiff’s claim for violation of civil rights law 50 and 51 was dismissed because the plaintiff’s name and likeness was not up for trade or being advertised. The claim for defamation was dismissed because the statement “flagrant opportunist” was the opinion of the defendant.
Rule of Law/Holding I:
No. There is not a common-law claim in New York...