- Agencies and their clients are being warned against paying out thousands of pounds for licences they don't need to use dead celebrities in ads.
No such licences are necessary for ads running only in the UK. And advertisers should take legal advice before parting with their money, according the Newspaper Society.
Its advice follows the emergence of a company called Dead Famous which recently announced that it was contacting the beneficiaries of deceased British celebrities asking for permission to represent them in negotiations for use of the celebrity's image in advertising or other commercial activity.
Dead Famous, part of the US-based Talent Corporation, which organises celebrity appearances, says it will also be making it known to agencies which dead celebrities are "available for work".
Philip Circus, the former legal affairs director of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and now the Newspaper Society's advertising law consultant, said: "What's going on isn't necessarily a scam but agencies need to make sure they actually need a licence. No demand for a fee should be taken at face value."
In contrast to some US states and several other countries, where licences are required , they are not needed for dead British celebrities. But that could change when new privacy laws are introduced and UK intellectual and copyright laws are brought into line with the rest of Europe.
At present agencies and advertisers using dead celebrities for ads running only in the UK need only ensure they have permission of the current copyright holder for use of pictures and film. No permission is needed for references to the celebrity in copy or a headline.