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That question might seem trivial, but the answer seems to be worth $7 million per year.
Last week, a New York District Court ruled that Monroe was indeed a New Yorker at the time of her death. (Here’s the decision.) The distinction is important because in October 2007, California amended its right of publicity statute to retroactively create a right that was deemed to have existed when Monroe died. Thus, if she died as a native of California, those who hold the late actress’ rights of publicity can continue to enjoy a near monopoly over the lucrative licensing of Monroe photographs.
But in a lawsuit brought by the Shaw Family Archives against CMG Worldwide and Marilyn Monroe, LLC, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon didn’t buy the defendants’ contention that Monroe was Californian. Ironically, part of the decision is a result of the Monroe’s estate’s avoidance of inheritance tax in California.
It hasn’t taken very long for the ramifications of the decision to be felt:
According to Global License magazine, there’s already a heavy demand for Monroe photographs now that MMLLC and CMG (Monroe’s agent) no longer have a monopoly and the licensing price has dropped. More than 50 license agreements have been signed over Marilyn Monroe images since the court decision. Forbes magazine recently estimated that CMG derived $7 million in revenue from Monroe’s image last year.
So if you begin to see Marilyn Monroe photographs popping up everywhere, this is the reason.
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