Marilyn Monroe Image Rights Settled: “I Belong To Everyone”

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National Anthem promo for Lana Del Rey

Marilyn Monroe image rights case finally settled. “I belong to everyone,” said Monroe, and work by artists such as Lana Del Rey suggests she was right

A long running legal battle waged by the estate of Marilyn Monroe against a range of image libraries has finally been settled. The court ruled against the estate who had been arguing that these libraries were distributing and selling Monroe’s image without permission.

According to the Guardian newspaper in London, the issue pivoted on a legal move her estate made when the star died.  Owing estate taxes in California, where Monroe lived, Monroe’s estate registered New York as her official home because New York did not have estate taxes.

When the suit was first brought by the Monroe estate in California, there was talk of a law being brought in retrospectively to support legal scenarios such as Monroe’s, favouring the actor.

However last month the US Federal Ninth Court of Appeals ruled in favour of the image libraries.  Probably a good job too as the use of Marilyn’s image has passed beyond 2D pictures, with artists such as Lana Del Rey channelling Monroe’s icon status (and that of Jackie Kennedy in Del Rey’s promo National Anthem).

As the court ruling concluded,

“Because Monroe died domiciled in New York, New York law applies to the question of whether Monroe LLC has the right to enforce Monroe’s posthumous right of publicity. Because no such right exists under New York law, Monroe LLC did not inherit it through the residual clause of Monroe’s will, and cannot enforce it against Milton Greene or others similarly situated. We observe that the lengthy dispute over the exploitation of Marilyn Monroe’s persona has ended in exactly the way that Monroe herself predicted more that fifty years ago: ‘I knew I belonged to the Public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful but because I had never belonged to anything or anyone else.’

We AFFIRM the district court’s judgment.”

Thanks Photo Archive News

Click for The Guardian story

Click for full court ruling

Also see Ripped Off!

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