MANHATTAN (CN) – Marilyn Monroe’s estate forfeited its post-mortem publicity rights to the late movie star’s name, image or persona, because Monroe’s estate was probated in New York to avoid the California estate tax, a licensing agency claims in Federal Court.
CMG Worldwide sued The Estate of Marilyn Monroe LLC in a 12-page complaint that contains 41 pages of exhibits and attachments.
Indiana-based CMG claims it became the exclusive representative of Monroe’s estate in 1995, and negotiated “hundreds of agreements” in more than 15 years.
In 2008, CMG and the Monroe Estate became embroiled in federal lawsuits in New York and California, according to the complaint.
“On or about March 17, 2008 and September 11, 2008, the Central District of California in Case Number 2:05-cv-02200-MMM-E and the Southern District of New York Case Number 05 Civ. 3939 (CM) (collectively the ‘Monroe Litigation’) determined that because Marilyn Monroe was represented by then counsel for the Estate of Marilyn Monroe to be a resident of the State of New York at the time of her death and because the Estate of Marilyn Monroe was probated in the State of New York primarily to avoid California estate tax implications, defendant was estopped from claiming that there were valid and enforceable post mortem rights of publicity in and to the name, likeness, and/or persona of Marilyn Monroe,” the complaint states.
The Estate of Marilyn Monroe subsequently became known as MMLLC.
That case led to similar litigation against One West Publishing Inc., which owns federal copyrights of Monroe photographs taken by celebrity photographers George Barris and Andre De Dienes, according to the complaint.
CMG claims it spent “millions of dollars” defending the 2008 cases on both coasts, and paid another $325,000 to One West as part of a settlement in the latter case
Under the One West settlement, CMG continued to license Barris and De Dienes’ images, until the Monroe estate terminated its agreement with CMG on Sept. 9, 2010, according to the complaint.
After receiving the termination letter, CMG says, it negotiated an agreement with MMLLC allowing CMG to remain One West’s exclusive representative until it recouped litigation expenses.
In early 2011, CMG and the Monroe estate continued to spar over the transfer of the URL www.marilynmonroe.com, the Marilyn Monroe Facebook page, and royalties from licensing agreements, according to the complaint.
On March 8, 2012, CMG says, it received a cease-and-desist warning from the Monroe Estate, threatening to sue if CMG offered any product with the star’s name.
CMG asks a federal jury to award it unspecified damages and declare that CMG has not infringed on any of the Monroe Estate’s rights.
CMG is represented by Bonnie L. Mohr.
Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jean Baker, died on Aug. 5, 1962. She was 36. The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office attributed her death to barbiturate poisoning, and called it a probable suicide, but conspiracy theories have abounded since then.
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