Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Law Clarifying Posthumous Right of Publicity Statute

January 2008


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed Senate Bill 771 into law (2007 Cal. Stat. ch 439) amending California’s right of publicity statute. The law now clearly allows a deceased person’s publicity rights to be passed on by will – even if that person died before January 1, 1985. The move was necessary after the existing publicity rights statute passed in 1985 (Civil Code §3344.1) was called into question by two federal court decisions – CMG Worldwide, Inc. v. Milton H. Greene Archives LLC, C.D. Cal., No. CV 05-2200 (summary judgment for defendants granted May 14, 2007) and Shaw Family Archives Ltd. v. CMG Worldwide, Inc., 486 F.Supp.2d 309 (S.D.N.Y., May 2, 2007). The latter case involved a dispute over the ownership of Marilyn Monroe’s right of publicity. Marilyn Monroe bequeathed her residuary estate to her long-time friend and acting coach Lee Strasberg; the question before the courts was whether Monroe’s publicity rights existed when she died in 1962 and could be bequeathed as a property right as California’s right of publicity statute recognizing a posthumous right only became effective January 1, 1985.

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