An individual's identity is comprised of many different characteristics. The law has historically recognized the existence of a property right in certain characteristics of an individual, such as name and likeness. This recognition was premised on the idea that these characteristics comprise the essence of a person's identity and therefore, should be protected against appropriation by others. A problem in this area, however, has been the confusion among property, privacy, and publicity rights. Each of these rights touches the area of personal characteristics; however, the focus of each right is on a distinct area. The confusion between these rights has inhibited the evolutionary development of property rights. Therefore, in order to clearly evaluate the evolution and interpretation of property rights, a preliminary discussion of these three rights and the context in which they arise is necessary. The purpose of this note, however, is not the distinction among these three rights. Rather, it is an investigation into the history of property rights relating to personal characteristics. The object of this investigation is to determine whether property rights exist in certain discrete characteristics or whether property rights attach to the more nebulous concept of identity.
Note, How Much of You Do You Really Own - A Property Right in Identity, 37 Clev. St. L. Rev. 499 (1989)