Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably heard some mention of Charlie Sheen, his party habits, his trip to rehab, the cancellation of the rest of the season of his show Two and a Half Men, his denouncement of addiction, and the all out assault he has launched against CBS, Producer Chuck Lorre, and anyone else standing in the way of Charlie Sheen “winning.”
Some say Sheen is not worth the bloated salary he receives ($1.8 MM per episode) since he merely plays himself—a middle aged playboy with a penchant for woman and booze. I say he deserves every dime of his salary and potentially more from the network for which he has raked in over a billion dollars. In fact, don’t be surprised if CBS eventually gives Sheen the $3 MM per episode he has demanded. They, more than anyone else, have done the math and realize that Sheen’s success rate with Two and a Half Men is 100%, and that the show will die without him.
Perhaps CBS should pay the man what he wants so that he can afford his goddesses and mercury surf board. Sheen can spend his life “in character” and CBS can keep cashing the advertising checks he brings in. CBS, Lorre, Sheen, and the rest of the cast and crew deserve to make a pretty penny of the hit they have created—even if it happens to be because the edited and scripted version of Sheen’s life sells itself.
Who does not deserve to get rich is every opportunist seeking to capitalize on the flash-in-the-pan moment of Sheen’s public outcries. It took less than a week from Sheen’s first public appearance post-cancellation for persons and companies to start selling t-shirts and other memorabilia with Sheen’s quotes, his image, and his likeness.
Don’t get me wrong, we are all amused by Sheen’s over-the-top statements such as “I don’t sleep. I wait.” and “Sorry my life is so much more bitchin’ than yours.”
But amusement should not mean profit for those not entitled to exploit a person’s name and likeness. California, like many other states, has statutes in place to protect a person’s right of publicity. Rooted in both privacy and property law, the right of publicity is ‘[t]he right of an individual, especially public figure or celebrity, to control the commercial value and exploitation of his name or picture or likeness or to prevent others from unfairly appropriating the value for their commercial benefit.” In essence, those who have become famous, not others, should be the one’s to capitalize on their fame.
Of course, exceptions exist for free press and free speech so that people can report and comment on the lives of notable personalities, such as Charlie Sheen. That is why TMZ and Perez Hilton can run articles about our favorite warlock and make a pretty penny doing so.
Immunity does not exist, however, for people trying to hoc products by evoking or unabashedly using a person’s name, image, or likeness. Yet people try. The website www.skreened.com alone has over 150 different unauthorized t-shirts for sale that use quotes, silhouettes, and even pictures of Charlie Sheen.
Others have tried to capitalize on F18 Sheen above board by seeking an endorsement or license arrangement wherein they are granted permission to use his name, image, and likeness in exchange for compensation. The Chill Group, for example, is offering Sheen a $3MM endorsement deal to promote their drink Just Chill, which is marketed as having stress-relieving qualities. The catch? In order to get the endorsement deal, Sheen has to complete a thirty day drug treatment plan and agree no to make any additional media appearances during the deal.
There is only one problem, Sheen is already cured of his drug addiction. How? Just ask Sheen: “I closed my eyes and made it so with the power of my mind.”
Maybe Sheen will start exploiting his right of publicity himself and begin offering the Charlie Sheen drug for sale, with the appropriate warning label of course: “ If you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body.”
Nicholas D. Myers, Esq.
 Black’s Law Dictionary 1325 (6th ed. 1990) (citing Presley’s Estate v. Russen, 513 F. Supp. 1339, 1353 (D.C.N.J. 1981)).