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Masks of famous faces during Carnival: cultural expression or violation of right of publicity?

Carnival is one of the largest and oldest Brazilian cultural manifestations. Over the years, some habits around this festivity have emerged, such as wearing costumes and props. In this context, masks of famous faces achieved popularity, which resulted in a discussion about the legality of said acts – would it be a violation of the rights of publicity of the portrayed individuals or mere cultural manifestations?

If, on the one hand, the Brazilian Federal Constitution states that the right of publicity is inviolable, on the other hand, it also guarantees freedom of expression as a general principle, prohibiting censorship. The Brazilian Civil Code specifically establishes that the use of image (likeness) of a person depends on prior authorization when such use affects his/her honor, good reputation or respectability, or if it is intended for commercial purposes.

Therefore, the use of masks of famous faces during Carnival festivities is not always permitted. Depending on the circumstances, the manufacturer of these props and the user may be prosecuted and ordered to compensate the individual portrayed.