The Roman merchants exploited the more successful gladiators who were sought after commodities, extoling the virtues of the merchants’ wares in and around the Coliseum on the day of the big game, just as the advertisers today do in the Super Bowl commercials. Like today, the gladiators were given compensation in exchange for their personal appearance as well as on posters to place around the Coliseum (i.e., ancient billboards). The gladitor’s right to sell their persona is an early example of what we now refer to as a person’s “right of publicity.”
The rights of a celebrity to license their persona – their name, likeness, image, signature and other attributes – is based on the legal concept of a person’s “rights of publicity.” The right of publicity is the personal right of any individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, likeness, or other unequivocal aspects of their identity.
–Barry Shrum, Counting Stars: Celebrity Licensing & Endorsements
The right of persona, like its distant cousins copyright and trademark, is an intellectual property that is exploited through the process of granting a license.