Indy firm loses Marilyn Monroe rights case

Michael W.
March 19, 2008
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CMG Worldwide Inc. suffered a significant legal setback Monday when a federal judge ruled that Fishers-based CMG and a company it represents, Marilyn Monroe LLC, do not own Marilyn Monroe's publicity rights.

The California ruling could be a massive blow to CMG. Monroe's likeness on everything from TV commercials to T-shirts generated about $30 million in sales between 1994 and 2006; about a fourth of the revenue landed at CMG.

CEO Mark Roesler was out of town and couldn't be immediately reached today for comment.

However, an Indianapolis attorney who formerly represented CMG and has handled Monroe litigation says the ruling is disappointing from iconic and legal standpoints.

In effect, the ruling tossed ownership rights to the public, said Jonathan Polak, who leads the intellectual property group at Sommer Barnard.

"Marilyn Monroe is one of the heavyweight celebrities in the licensing business and she has generated significant licensing revenues, but the court has essentially unleashed the right of publicity for Marilyn to the public domain," Polak said. "This is a sad day for those of us practicing in this area."

The case started in Indiana but was transferred to and consolidated in California District Court in 2005.

Marilyn Monroe LLC is owned by Anna Strasberg, the wife of Monroe's former acting coach. Strasberg argued that publicity rights passed to her late husband after Monroe's death.

CMG and Marilyn Monroe LLC claimed that photographers Milton H. Greene and Tom Kelley had infringed their rights. Green and Kelley's photos helped catapult Monroe into stardom and include a nude shot of her on a red velvet cloth published in Playboy magazine's inaugural issue in 1953.


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  1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?