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The heirs of beloved Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks have recently taken a loss in a Michigan court.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development filed suit against the Target Corporation for violating the Right of Publicity Law, which gives a celebrity control of products that utilize their image and likeness. The retailer is currently selling six books, a plaque, and the CBS film, The Rosa Parks Story.

In her ruling, Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals cited public interest as one of the reasons why Parks’ image will continue to be available for sale by the retailer.

“Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of a discussion of the Civil Rights Movement without reference to Parks and her role in it. And Michigan law does not make discussion of these topics of public concern contingent on paying a fee,” read her statement.

“As a result, all six books, the movie and the plaque find protection in Michigan’s qualified privilege protecting matters of public interest,” she added.

Gwendolyn Thomas Kennedy Green, attorney for the institute, expressed her disappointment in the ruling. “Basically what it says is the First Amendment, which is your right to free speech, allows you to take anybody who’s famous for any reason historically or musically to use their name and likeness to further whatever product you’re giving, and make a profit from it,” she said. 

Reportedly, the institute plans to take the case to the Supreme Court.

Prior to Parks’ death in 2005, she and her estate famously filed a lawsuit against Outkast and LaFace Records for “Rosa Parks,” the 1998 song that includes the lyrics, “Ah ha, hush that fuss / Everybody move to the back of the bus.”

At the time, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling that the activist couldn’t sue for defamation, but was allowed to pursue an appeal, resulting in a settlement.


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