Author: Jacqueline Lipton

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Personality Rights and the Shifting Persona

First of all, thanks so much to Dan for inviting me to blog this month and for the lovely introduction. I know that amid all the speculation about potential Supreme Court nominees this may seem a little frivolous, but anyone who knows my recent work will be aware of my current fascination with the American right of publicity. I suppose my interest stems from the fact that I studied law predominantly in countries with no such right so I’m intrigued with how it works in the United States. One potential new personality rights issue I came across online recently (and unfortunately I’m going to show my age here) relates to David Bowie’s son from his first marriage – Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones. Those of us from my generation or before may remember that as a young boy, Bowie’s son was generally referred to as Zowie Bowie, and later Joey (or Joe) Bowie. Later in life, he reverted back to his given first name and now goes by “Duncan Jones”. Although Mr Jones Jnr has previously led a relatively quiet life outside the limelight, he has recently directed his first feature film, Moon, which will be released commercially this summer. As a director he is known as “Duncan Jones”, although the public is still aware that he has also been known as “Zowie Bowie”.

Prior to Duncan Jones’ entry into the public eye as a movie director, an American singer called Chris Phillips, adopted the name Zowie Bowie for his onstage persona. He was aware that it was the name of David Bowie’s son and was using it as a draw for people to see his show. He says that he never claimed to be David Bowie’s son, but used the name to promote the “Zowie Bowie state of mind”, assuming that people wouldn’t pay money to see “Chris Phillips”.

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