South-Western Legal Studies in Business

State May Allow Sale of Likeness and Not Commit Tort of Invasion of Privacy
Description South Carolina high court held that when allowed by the legislature to help reduce fraud, the state could sell drivers' license information and photographs to private firms. Due to the statutory permission, a citizen could not sue for the tort of invasion of privacy.
Topic Torts
Key Words Invasion of Privacy; Appropriation of Personality; Driver's License
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts In 1997, the state of South Carolina allowed the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to sell copies of electronic photographs from drivers' licenses to help prevent fraud in credit cards and other transactions. The DPS sold Image Data the information and photos that appear on the face of South Carolina licenses. Image Data was to use the information in a national database for fraud prevention and identity verification. In 1999, the South Carolina legislature reversed itself and specifically forbid the DPS from selling such information. Prior to the 1999 legislation, Sloan sued the DPS and Image Data for invasion of privacy based on the sale of her driver's license information. The trial court dismissed her suit. Sloan appealed.

Affirmed. The right to privacy is defined as the right to be let alone; the right of a person to be free from unwarranted publicity. There are three separate causes of action for invasion of privacy: (1) wrongful appropriation of personality, (2) wrongful publicizing of private affairs, and (23) wrongful intrusion into private affairs. The claim here is wrongful appropriation of personality, which involves the intentional, unconsented use of a person's name, likeness, or identity. The notion is that it is a violation of a person's right at common law to publicize and profit from his or her name, likeness, and other aspects of personal identity. However, the sale of the information in this case does not give rise to a tort action because the DPS and Image Data relied on state law as the basis for their transaction. The information used by Image Data was only for fraud prevention, as allowed by the statute in place at that time.

Citation Sloan v. S.C. Dept, of Public Safety, --- S.E.2d --- (2003 WL 21783232, Sup. Ct., S.C., 2003)

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