CMG Sue Over MM Image Rights

CMG Worldwide – who managed licensing rights for Marilyn’s image until 2010 – are at loggerheads with her estate, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“When the Monroe estate terminated its relationship with CMG, the parties allegedly reached a deal whereby CMG would return certain assets, including the Monroe website and Facebook page, for a cash payout.

The following year, CMG sued the estate to enforce the terms of the termination agreement. The case settled.

Neither the termination deal nor the settlement agreement is said to have addressed CMG’s representation of One-West Publishing (regarding the copyright ownership of photos by Andre de Dienes and George Barris.) CMG believes that it is permitted to carry on its work there so as to recoup its expenses to settle the One-West litigation.

This month, CMG got a cease-and-desist letter from the Monroe estate over its licensing and display of Marilyn Monroe products and services.

On Wednesday, in a very odd twist, CMG filed a new lawsuit against the Monroe estate in New York federal court, seeking a ruling that it hasn’t done anything wrong with Monroe’s likeness.”

MM Fan Speaks Out on Fair Use

Photo by Yury Toroptsov, 'Marilyn and I', 2010

Marijane Gray, who has written several articles about Marilyn, was interviewed by Elisa Jordan for The Examiner recently, and spoke out about ABG and Facebook’s treatment on Monroe’s fans – and in particular, the mass deletion of non-profit tribute pages.

“It would do a lot to restore public opinion of them if they admitted they were wrong about what constitutes a copyright violation and left the non-commercial tribute pages in peace. There are enough people out there selling fake autographs, fake memorabilia, putting Marilyn’s face on cheap junk … go after them, not the people who want to look at photos or have a chat about her.”

 

Facebook and the Ownership of Marilyn Monroe

Photo by Harry Snowden

In the light of recent events in which ABG – who handle licensing matters for Marilyn’s estate – have had non-profit, fan pages deleted from Facebook – Marijane Gray has investigated the subject in an article for Yahoo! Voices, speaking to fans and legal experts on copyright and fair use.

‘Authentic Brands Group would do well to heed an actual quote from Marilyn: “If I am a star, the people made me a star.” Well, the people still love their star, and love her so much they will rebel against what they see as the commodification of her. Marilyn was viewed as a cash cow in life, never getting the respect she deserved, and it is a great tragedy that 50 years after her death nothing has changed.’

MAC to Launch MM Autumn Line

According to Harper’s Bazaar, MAC cosmetics have teamed up with ABG to create a ‘nostalgic collection, which will be showcased in custom-designed display units…It’s early days for the collection, which won’t launch in stores until October, but you can expect the most opulent red lipsticks, vintage nail lacquers, inky eyeliners and gorgeous pressed powders.’

Networking With Marilyn

In a bizarre sign of our times, Marilyn Monroe – or rather, ABG, the licensing arm of her estate – is now verified on Twitter. She also has a Facebook page.

While I’m strongly in favour of Marilyn’s estate having a public voice, so far I’m not too impressed by the content – too many misattributed quotes, celebrity shout-outs and product plugs. All in good fun, of course, but nonetheless I don’t think this accurately reflects her rich legacy.

I’d like to see fans having more input in these accounts, and a bit more quality control. Ideally, these accounts should be managed by someone who has an in-depth knowledge of Marilyn’s life and career.

Marilyn 3rd on Forbes List

Marilyn comes 3rd on Forbes’ list of Top-Earning Dead Celebrities for 2011, just behind Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. She had dropped off the list during 2009 and 2010, but in the last year her estate has earned $27 million.

Writing for Forbes, Dorothy Pomerantz attributes Marilyn’s ‘comeback’ to ABG, the marketing company that acquired licensing rights this year. I would add that the upcoming 5oth anniversary, and My Week With Marilyn have also played their part.

Merchandising and ‘Mister President’ Movie Plans

The New York Times reports this week on ABG’s plans to broaden Marilyn’s appeal after acquiring licensing rights from her estate earlier this year.  “This summer, the group consolidated those rights with several photographic portfolios, including Bruno Bernard’s, along with rights to products like a Marilyn Monroe line of Nova Wines, lingerie by Dreamwear and merchandise by the skateboard company Alien Workshop.”

MM fans may recall (with mixed emotions) that ABG head Jamie Salter spoke earlier this year of plans to ‘reanimate’ Marilyn’s image onscreen. I was reminded of his comment when I read this (slightly alarming) snippet on IndieWire:

Roland Emmerich, whose Shakespeare-subverting drama Anonymous will hit theaters October 28, is planning another trip down history lane, but this time not as far back and not any time soon. The director is planning to make Happy Birthday Mr. President – “The title will tell you everything” – but says digital technology is not yet where it needs to be for him to make it the way he wants, i.e. with digitally manipulated and aged actors. Does this mean Marilyn Monroe will actually be the one singing the famous song to John F. Kennedy on his birthday? We’ll have to wait and see; “I think we have to wait another five years,” says Emmerich. For now, we can watch the real deal, or enjoy Michelle Williams channeling Monroe.’

Of course, I’m just speculating here and Emmerich’s movie plans may have nothing to do with Marilyn, or the ‘reanimation’ rumours. But the title seems to imply that they might, not to mention the need to wait (for improved technology?)

Given that the Monroe-Kennedy association is so contentious, I can only hope that any film on the subject would be done with respect for the truth.

No Sale for Disputed MM ‘Sex Tape’

A 1940s porn film, said by current owner Mikel Barsa to feature an ‘underage’ Marilyn Monroe, failed to sell at auction in Buenos Aires yesterday, after MM’s estate denounced it as ‘fraudulent’.

‘Whoever the woman in the film may have been, even alleging that it shows Monroe violates her intellectual property rights and will cost Barsa dearly if he goes ahead with the sale,’ said Nancy Carlson, a spokeswoman for Authentic Brands Group (ABG.)

Collector Scott Fortner pointed out the many differences between the young Marilyn and the girl in the clip in a recent blog post. Michelle Morgan, author of Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed, told ABC News, ‘Marilyn at the time of this tape had a very slim figure, a widow’s peak and perfect teeth.’

To the San Jose Mercury, Morgan added, ‘Marilyn had no motivation at all to make a porn movie…Her friends all agree that she never, ever showed any signs of having earned money in any other way than modeling or working as a real actress.’

While conceding that Monroe ‘wasn’t a prude’, Dr Lois Banner (author of MM – Personal) advised, ‘There have been numerous tapes alleging to have caught Marilyn at a particular moment in a particular sexual indiscretion, but I would not accept any such tape without a documented provenance…No one would buy a Miro or a Picasso without such documentation, my understanding is that the person selling the tape has brought none of this forward.’

Mr Barsa – who was previously threatened with legal action when he first revealed his discovery in 1997 –  commented, ‘It always is the same story when it comes to Marilyn – to deny, deny, deny and to threaten.’

Greene, Kelley, Bernard Join ABG

Statement from PR Newswire:

‘Authentic Brands Group (ABG), in addition to its recent acquisition of The Estate of Marilyn Monroe owned in partnership with NECA, Anna Strasberg and Anna Freud Center, announced today it has consolidated the licensing efforts of the Marilyn Monroe brand by signing exclusive agreements to represent the Marilyn Monroe photography of Milton H. Greene, Tom Kelley and Bernard of Hollywood – who together produced the most celebrated and recognized photographs of Monroe.’