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Halloween exclusive: Son of Dracula speaks to Legal Cheek — he’s a lawyer

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Bela Lugosi Jr is a longstanding top flight Hollywood attorney who was instrumental in campaign for groundbreaking image rights legislation in California

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When Hollywood stars feel the corporate leaches are sucking the very blood from their own image rights and intellectual property, who do they call? None other than the son of cinema’s definitive vampire — Bela George Lugosi.

For the best part of the first half of the 20th-century, Hungarian-born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó — who took the stage name Lugosi — was one of the biggest stars of the silver screen, frightening generations of movie-goers with his dark-eyed stare and, let’s face it, rather sharp, pointy fangs as he made several appearances as the Prince of Darkness, Count Dracula.

The actor died in 1956 aged 73. His son, 76-year-old Bela George (sometimes referred to as junior), has not only surpassed that age, but he continues to practise law in the heart of movieland.

A counsel at Los Angeles firm Arent Fox, Lugosi specialises in IP, entertainment and business law, with a focus on litigation. And while not as immediately recognisable as his old man, junior has also carved himself a significant piece of Hollywood history.

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He was instrumental in the 1979 case of Lugosi v Universal Pictures, which went before the California State Supreme Court and raised the issue of whether personality rights of celebrities could legally descend to their heirs. Lugosi had won at first instance, but the movie moguls overturned the ruling on appeal.

Unbowed, Lugosi turned his attention to lobbying the state’s legislature, which ultimately resulted in the California Celebrities Rights Act 1985. That legislation allowed rights to survive a celebrity’s death.

Speaking exclusively to Legal Cheek on the eve of Halloween, lawyer Lugosi proudly pointed out that up to half the US states have now followed California’s example with celebrity rights statutes.

“Image and intellectual property rights are now at the forefront of contract negotiations between celebrities and film-makers,” he said.

However, Lugosi pointed out that conflicts remain, especially around biographical works.

“It is often argued that first amendment free speech rights trump a celebrity’s rights over his own image and personality,” Lugosi explained.

The lawyer said he was keen to celebrate Halloween — however, he declined to give Legal Cheek details of his plans for the night of 31 October.

“There’s no way I’m going to get into that conversation,” he chuckled.