Volume 111

Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Copyright?: Character Copyright on RuPaul's Drag Race

by Olivia Roche

RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) has catapulted the art of drag into the mainstream and changed the lives of numerous drag performers in the process. Queens often sign on to participate in the show with little more than a well-defned, unique drag character and a dream. They fail to realize what rights to their own original drag personas are relinquished to RPDR producers when they sign the show’s Participant Agreement. This Note discusses how ambiguity in U.S. copyright law related to character copyright can affect drag queens and how the RPDR Participant Agreement’s failure to explicitly address who owns what when it comes to drag characters could force queens to kill their own characters to appease producers. Finally, this Note proposes codifying character copyright within the Copyright Act to delineate how drag queens can protect their own characters prior to signing up for the show and suggests a default provision that treats visual characters within audiovisual works, such as drag personas, as contributions to collective works

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