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Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Madonna, Vogue and The Estate of Marlon Brando

Images-4Madonna's song "Vogue" lists of various Hollywood icons and everytime that it is performed, Madonna pays the estates of each of those icons.  For example, when she performed "Vogue" at the superbowl last year, she paid $3,750 each to estates of James Dean, Jean Harlow, Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, LanaTurner, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Gene Kelly, Grace Kelly, and Joe DiMaggio. CMG Worldwide manages the intellectual property rights of many of these dead stars.  

After the Super Bowl, Madonna wanted to go on tour to support her latest album and she wanted to play Vogue again.  To facilitate this, the touring company, Bhakti Touring, Inc. went to CMG for help gaining clearance for use of the dead starts' publicity rights, including Brando's.  Since CMG does not represent the rights of Marlon Brando, they began negotiations with Brando Enterprises and its agent at Brand Sense Partners (BSP). When Madonna performed Vogue at the Super Bowl, CMG was able to get an agreement with BSP indicating that the Brando estate would be paid $3,750 just like all the other stars. When CMG went to BSP about Madonna's tour, they made the same proposal. Shortly after, CMG convince Bhakti to agree to pay $5,000 for each celebrity, but in the last week of May, BSP allegedly began demanding that Bhakti pay Marlon Brando $20,000.  

As a result of these new demands, CMG filed a low-key lawsuit in Indiana state court alleging that Brando Enterprises and BSP reneged on a valid and enforcable contract.  Among other things, they are also demanding that Brando's estate and its agents do not bring any lawsuits against CMG, Bhakti, and Madonna claiming that they violated Brando's intellectual property.

On Wednesday, Brando Enterprises got the lawsuit removed to federal court in Indianapolis on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.  They are planning to show that Brando's IP rights far exceed $5,000 and that Madonna exploited Brando's IP in about 90 different concert performances. 

See Eriq Gardner, Lawsuit Aims to Stop Marlon Brando Estate From Suing Madonna Over 'Vogue' (Exclusive), The Hollywood Reporter, Sept. 28, 2012. 

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this blog to my attention.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2012/09/madonna-vogue-and-the-estate-of-marlon-brando.html

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