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Shaw Family Archives v. CMG Worldwide

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
486 F. Supp. 2d 309 (2007)


Facts

Marilyn Monroe, LLC (MMLLC) (plaintiff) commenced an action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against Shaw Family Archives, LLC (Shaw) (defendant). MMLLC claimed Shaw had violated Indiana’s Right of Publicity Act (Publicity Act) by selling products bearing the likeness and image of Marilyn Monroe and licenses to use images and likenesses of Monroe on commercial products. Principals of Shaw claimed to own the copyright to various iconic images of Monroe. MMLLC, an entity created by the Administratrix of Monroe’s estate to control the intellectual property interests conferred to the beneficiaries of the residuary clause in Monroe’s will, claimed to be the successor-in-interest to her publicity rights under the Publicity Act. The Publicity Act was enacted in 1994, over 30 years after Monroe’s death in 1962 and created a descendable and transferable right of publicity extending 100 years after a testator’s death that applies to acts or events occurring in Indiana regardless of the decedent celebrity’s domicile. MMLLC moved for summary judgment claiming that Monroe’s postmortem publicity rights passed to MMLLC through the residuary clause of her will. Shaw filed a cross motion for summary judgment asserting that Monroe – a possible domiciliary of either California or New York, but not Indiana – could not devise publicity rights she did not own at the time of her death since no Publicity Act had yet been enacted in Indiana or either state of possible domicile. The court considered both motions.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McMahon, J.)

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