Marilyn: Dead, and Loving It

As August comes to a close, let us not forget that it was 45 years ago, on August 5, 1962, that Marilyn Monroe died in her home in Los Angeles. Actually, I bring up Marilyn’s death because she is the focus of some recent legal battles that could have really long-lasting consequences for photographers. For years, dead celebrities (and their heirs) have been able to demand fees from photographers who want to sell images of them for commercial purposes. Now courts have turned that idea on its head,

As August comes to a close, let us not forget that it was 45 years ago, on August 5, 1962, that Marilyn Monroe died in her home in Los Angeles. Actually, I bring up Marilyn’s death because she is the focus of some recent legal battles that could have really long-lasting consequences for photographers. For years, dead celebrities (and their heirs) have been able to demand fees from photographers who want to sell images of them for commercial purposes. Now courts have turned that idea on its head, putting Marilyn’s name and likeness in the public domain. I view this as a very positive step forward—a victory not only for photographers but also the sanctity of copyright protection. Also, it’s a general smack down to the notion that rich and famous people deserve to be rich for eternity. So of course even as you read this some politicians in California are working to give dead celebrities all their rights back—and then some.

The story is a bit complicated, so stick with me. I promise it’s interesting.