Journal of Intellectual Property Law


“We serial killers are your sons, we are your husbands, we are everywhere.”1 Ted Bundy’s haunting words are more accurate than he could have known. Jef-frey Dahmer, Charles Manson, Dennis Radar (aka “BTK”), and John Wayne Gacy are a few of the many names that elicit nightmares and horror to essentially every American with access to media. Famous for their ghastly crimes, serial killers captivate the country with their terrible acts. What is more troubling, how-ever, is that it seems as if, today, serial killers are everywhere in a way that Ted Bundy could not have anticipated. Not only are their crimes broadcast over the news throughout their violent killing sprees, the vicious murders are now often memorialized in the form of dramatic reenactments in the popular genre of “true crime”.

The “true crime” genre has expanded to virtually every medium; podcasts, television shows, movies, and more captivate audiences with scarily realistic rep-resentations of crimes. Directors and screenwriters often utilize the real names, images, and likeness of the killers, victims, investigators, lawyers, and family members involved without so much as a consultation to any of the individuals whose identities are being recreated. Thus, in most cases, true crime capitalizes on the exploitation of individuals’ personhood. This leads to the question of whether individuals portrayed or discussed in these reenactments should have their identity protected through right of publicity laws.