Marlene Dietrich

323 U.S., 214, 65 S.Ct. 193, 89 L.Ed. 194 (1944)

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Marlene Dietrich

German Federal Supreme Court
323 U.S., 214, 65 S.Ct. 193, 89 L.Ed. 194 (1944)

Facts

Marlene Dietrich was a famous American singer and actress who was born in Germany. The manager (defendant) of Lighthouse Musical Production Company (Lighthouse) produced a musical called Marlene that ran for a few months in Berlin in 1993, shortly after Dietrich’s death. Aside from ticket sales, Lighthouse monetized Dietrich’s name and likeness in three ways: (1) by giving an automobile manufacturer certain marketing rights to Dietrich’s first name, signature, and photograph, (2) by including an advertisement in the musical’s program for cosmetics that could be used to achieve “the Marlene look,” and (3) by producing and selling memorabilia bearing a photo of Dietrich. Dietrich’s only child, Maria Riva (plaintiff), acting as Dietrich’s executrix and as her successor in interest, sued the Lighthouse manager for injunctive relief and for damages resulting from infringement upon Dietrich’s right to personality (RTP). Riva sued the Lighthouse manager in his personal capacity because Lighthouse had dissolved its business entity. The Lighthouse manager countered that his artistic freedom was a complete defense. The trial court granted an injunction to Riva, forbidding the Lighthouse manager from monetizing the musical in the three enumerated ways, but denied Riva’s claim for damages because the Lighthouse business entity was not in existence and could not pay Riva. Riva appealed, arguing, among other things, that the trial court should have found that she was entitled to damages.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning ()

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