Paul L. Caron

Friday, December 10, 2021

Can A Student Sue His Law School For $750,000 When It Profits Off His Name, Image, And Likeness?

Texas Lawyer, Can a Law Student Sue Their Law School When It Profits Off The Student’s Name, Image, and Likeness?:

Ish 3In what is going to be a remarkably interesting case involving a new law school and a student who is suing them for $750,000 in a human rights complaint, we are going to find out if there is any consequence when a law school profits off using a student’s name, image, and likeness to promote the school.

The story began back in 2018. I had just written about Toronto’s Ryerson University and their desire to open a law school. The city already has two law schools — the extremely expensive Osgoode Hall and the truly insanely expensive University of Toronto Faculty of Law. These are arguably the two most elite and prestigious law schools in the nation, so why would another university even consider opening another law school?

Because Ryerson was going to be different. In an expansive sea of expensive sameness, Ryerson was going to be the law school of the people, committed to social justice and making a difference while training a different type of lawyer.

According to the Toronto Star [He Was the Poster Child for Toronto’s Newest Law School. He’s Now Filing a $750,000 Human Rights Complaint Against It.], Ryerson may have fallen well short of their lofty goals and become yet another law school accessible to only some people. Ish Aderonmu, who says he is struggling to pay rent let alone pay tuition, and that he is facing racial discrimination at Ryerson via a program that is inaccessible to a poor Black man. ...

In his interview with The Star, Aderonmu said that the law school benefited from publicity around a Black man who had life experience with the justice system coming to the university. Before law school, Aderonmu was convicted of felony charges for a drug offense (cannabis) in Philadelphia. He was released from prison when he voluntarily agreed to return to Canada. ...

In quite an irony here, Ryerson has since named their law school the Lincoln Alexander School of Law, after a famous Black lawyer who served as Lieutenant Governor. That the university would essentially use Aderonmu’s name, image, and likeness as a poster child without any compensation is shameful In Ryerson’s context. Ryerson, of course, denies all of Aderonmu’s allegations. ...

What makes this an exceptional case is that Ryerson built a law school on Aderonmu’s back. He was not only their PR, media, and social media superstar, he was, in startup terms (which Ryerson’s law school was) the persona. He was the difference-maker, the exact student archetype that would allow Ryerson’s law school to survive. Ish Aderonmu as Ryerson Law’s competitive and comparative advantage is going to play very well in the media and perhaps in court.

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