Ray v. ESPN, Inc., No. 14-2117 (8th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Steve "Wild Thing" Ray wrestled in the Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF) from 1990 to 1994. His matches were filmed. Ray specifically agreed that the films would be "sold and used." Since his retirement from the UWF, Ray has promoted healthcare products and weightlifting supplements. ESPN obtained films of his wrestling matches and re-telecast them throughout North America and Europe without obtaining his "consent to use [his] identity, likeness, name, nick name, or personality to depict him in any way." Ray does not allege that ESPN obtained the films unlawfully. Ray filed suit, asserting, under Missouri state law: invasion of privacy, misappropriation of name, infringement of the right of publicity, and interference with prospective economic advantage. The Eighth Circuit affirmed dismissal on the grounds of preemption by the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101. Ray's wrestling performances were part of the copyrighted material, and his likenesses could not be detached from the copyrighted performances contained in the films. Ray has not alleged that his name and likeness were used to promote or endorse any type of commercial product. His complaints are based solely on ESPN airing video recordings depicting him in a "work of authorship," which is plainly encompassed by copyright law.