Laws of Image:
Privacy and Publicity in America
Stanford University Press, 2015
Americans have long been obsessed with their images—their looks, public personas, and the impressions they make. This preoccupation has left its mark on the law. The twentieth century saw the creation of laws that protect your right to control your public image, to defend your image, and to feel good about your image and public presentation of self.
Laws of Image tells the story of how Americans came to use the law to protect and manage their images, feelings, and reputations. In this social, cultural, and legal history, Samantha Barbas ties the development of personal image law to the self-consciousness and image-consciousness that has become endemic in our media-saturated culture of celebrity and consumerism, where people see their identities as intertwined with their public images
New Books Network: Listen to podcast: “Laws of Image,” here.
EXCERPTS: BOOK REVIEWS
"Beautifully written and powerfully argued, Laws of Image shows us how the law develops through culture, leaving us with a rich sense of the struggle that remains as digital culture renders the image as common as the bit. This is not a story with a known ending—Samantha Barbas charts the very origin of an increasingly important legal protection, and the ongoing battle to counter a technology that knows no limits."
—Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law School
"Barbas's book offers a lucid, wide-ranging, and accessible cultural and legal history of a time when privacy mattered, when the law helped ordinary individuals control their images, and when courts considered ratifying a right to be protected from uses others might make of an image. Laws of Image provides readers with an extraordinary voyage to a past that seems almost impossibly quaint and distant."
—Hendrik Hartog, Princeton University
"In a series of compelling stories of court cases and their social contexts, Samantha Barbas illuminates how evolving ideas about self-image and privacy transformed tort law and the freedom of speech. Laws of Image is an artful combination of cultural and legal history."
—Stuart Banner, UCLA Law School
“Today, as private lives are increasingly shared on social media, individuals continue to seek control of their personal images…..Barbas’s cultural and legal history of the effort to shape the law of public image is essential reading for understanding this ongoing effort.”
—Tim Gleason, Journal of American History
"Dr. Samantha Barbas's book, Laws of Image: Privacy and Publicity in America, makes an original, important, and engaging contribution to the history of privacy law in the United States. Given that Laws of Image spans more than 100 years of legal and cultural developments, it is remarkable how readable this book is: It is well-written, and the flow and pacing are excellent."
—Lyrissa B. Lidsky, JOTWELL