Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, September 5, 2008

Who controls "Seven Year Itch" photo?

Monroe_photoThis classic photograph is of Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe as they appeared in the 1954 movie Seven Year Itch.  For years, a battle has been waged over the rights to this photo.

Here are the details according to Fishers firm loses lawsuit over iconic Marilyn Monroe image, Indystar.com, Sept. 4, 2008:

      • Sam Shaw took the picture.
      • Sam died in 1999 leaving his copyrights in trust to the Shaw Family Archives Ltd. naming his two daughters (Edith Marcus and Meta Stevens) as the beneficiaries.
      • The trust sued CMG Worldwide Inc. and Marilyn Monroe LLC for copyright infringement when they used several of Sam's photos without permission.
      • On September 2, 2008, a New York federal judge ruled in favor of the trust.
      • A key issue was the determination of Marilyn's domicile at death because California grants celebrities a post-mortem right of publicity while New York does not.
      • The court concluded that solid evidence supported a finding that Marilyn's domicile was in New York at the time of her death.


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