Cease and Desist Letters from Beyond the Grave is an occasional, and judging by the visitor statistics, popular feature of this blog, second only to the Book Reports in traffic. Each installment of the series has been devoted to some notable example of the overreach by the heirs and estates of literary and show business luminaries, such as Frank Sinatra, William Faulkner, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. We would be remiss then, not to note the passing of one of the true pioneers of the genre, Roger Richman, whose obituary appears in today’s New York Times.
Back in 1979, his legal career at a standstill, Richman was happy to get W.C. Fields as a client, despite the fact that the comedian had passed away in 1946. After successfully negotiating some licensing deals for the Fields’ estate, including one with the postal service for a commemorative stamp, Richman had found his niche. He was instrumental in gaining the passage of the California Celebrity Rights Act, which opened the floodgates for the licensing of dead celebrity images, and has served as the basis for countless cease and desist letters from beyond the grave. R.I.P.