SANTA ROSA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The right to exploit Marilyn Monroe photographic images was upheld by the United States District Court of New York on September 2, 2008. Re-affirming a California decision in favor of Tom Kelley Studios and Milton H. Greene Archives, the court held Marilyn Monroe LLC (MMLLC) and CMG Worldwide, Inc. (CMG) do not have the right to license Marilyn Monroe name, image, likeness or signature.
As a result of the two cases, commercial licensing of Marilyn Monroe images have soared over recent months, reports Gary Saal, director of licensing, Legends Licensing, LLC (www.legendslicensing.com). Over 50 international licenses have signed on with the company through its Marilyn Monroe Licensing Group division. Saal attributes this increase to two things – the fact that no license fees need to be paid to MMLLC or CMG, and the fact that Legends Licensing and its Marilyn Monroe Licensing Group has assembled the largest and most diverse collection of Monroe images in existence, creating a ‘one-stop shop’ for licensees. The Marilyn Monroe Licensing Group currently includes the Tom Kelley Collection, including Kelley’s iconic early nudes known as The Red Velvet Collection™, the Milton H. Greene Collection, and the Harold Lloyd Collection. Legends Licensing also represents the libraries of other celebrities and public figures.
Commenting on the ruling, Surjit Soni of the Pasadena, CA Soni Law Firm and counsel for the Greene and Kelley parties, said, "This ruling reconfirms that MMLLC and CMG's stranglehold on the Marilyn Monroe licensing business is broken. Licensees who have, according to Forbes Magazine, paid approximately $7 million in royalties to CMG in 2007 – which represents over $50 million in wholesale revenues – are now free to license Marilyn Monroe photographs from copyright owners at a lower total cost and a higher profit potential."
For many years, access to the images of Marilyn Monroe had been restricted by CMG, the licensing agent for MMLLC. On March 17, 2008, United States District Court, Central District of California held that CMG and MMLLC do not own the Right of Publicity for Marilyn Monroe. Judge Margaret M. Morrow ruled that CMG and MMLLC could not now claim Monroe was domiciled in California, after having asserted for nearly 40 years that she was domiciled in New York, to avoid paying California estate taxes.
The New York court's 32-page decision on September 2, 2008, in a separate but related case involving The Shaw Family Archives, Ltd., refused to allow MMLLC and CMG to reargue the California ruling. Both the California and New York courts agreed, as Judge Morrow stated in her ruling, that CMG and MMLLC had been "playing fast and loose with the courts" simply to benefit from a recently passed California law granting rights of publicity to a celebrity's estate.
These rulings free the way for licensees to work directly with the owners of these iconic image libraries, who have gathered together under the Marilyn Monroe Licensing Group banner at Legends Licensing. The images captured by these photographers are distinctive in no small part because of the photographers' unique access to Marilyn Monroe, who considered them to be friends and colleagues. The owners and managers of these photograph estates – in most cases the children of the photographers – are deeply committed to honoring and protecting the legacy of Marilyn Monroe in all licensing circumstances.
About Legends Licensing, LLC
Legends Licensing, LLC has been formed with the mission of providing a business-friendly, one-stop shop for licensees seeking the rights to a wide range of celebrities and other legendary figures. Gary Saal serves as director of licensing, and Joshua Greene is creative director. The company is headquartered in Santa Rosa, CA, with offices in Florence, Oregon, and Los Angeles. Interested parties should contact Saal at 707-566-7825, Greene at 541-997-4970, or visit www.legendslicensing.com.