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MARILYN MONROE ESTATE HAS NO RIGHT OF PUBLICITY
A federal judge has held that Marilyn Monroe's right of publicity did not survive her death. Consequently a the owner of photographs of her could sell images of the screen siren to commercial product manufacturers without paying a licensing fee.
The judge said Monroe did not have the capacity to grant property rights that she did not own at the time of her death.
Monroe's estate argued that it was the successor to Monroe's right of publicity, arising from her grant of the right in her will to actor Lee Strasberg, a friend of Monroe's. When Strasberg died, his heirs established a company to manage the intellectual property assets of the beneficiaries of Monroe's will. Monroe's estate claimed that Shaw Family Archives (SFA), owner of the photos, use of the actress's image violated its rights under Indiana's 1994 Right of Publicity Act. This law creates a descendible and transferable right of publicity that survives for 100 years after a person's death.
SFA contended that the Monroe estate could not lay claim to the rights because Monroe could only devise by will property that she owned when she died. Neither New York nor California, the only possible domiciles of Monroe at the time of her death, recognized such rights at that time. Moreover, Indiana also did not recognize such rights at the time.
Shaw Family Archives Ltd. et al. v. CMG Worldwide Inc. et al., No. 05-3939, 2007 WL 1413381 (S.D.N.Y. May 7, 2007).