While Madonna travels the globe as part of her wildly successful 2012 World Tour, licensing firm, CMG Worldwide, Inc., is fighting a legal battle on her behalf. The intellectual property lawsuit involves the Material Girl’s use of the names and likenesses of several deceased celebrities in her hit song Vogue.
As many will recall, the lyrics of the song include “Greta Garbo, and Monroe, Deitrich and DiMaggio, Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean, on the cover of a magazine.” During live performances on tour, images of the celebrities flash across the screen along with the lyrics.
CMG Worldwide contends that it secured licenses to use Marlon Brando’s likeness in both Madonna’s Super Bowl half-time show and her subsequent world tour. However, it claims that Marlon Brando’s estate upped its asking price shortly after a deal was reached and refuses to abide by the terms of the original agreement.
According to CMG’s complaint, Brando’s estate was paid a fee of $3,750 for the Super Bowl performance and was to receive $5,000 for the use of the actor’s name, likeness, and image in each tour performance. The tour agreement was the same for all of the Hollywood stars mentioned in Vogue under a “most favored nations” clause, which required Brando’s estate to receive payments at least as favorable as those provided to the other celebrities. However, CMG claims that representatives of Brando’s estate later changed the terms of their agreement and demanded a $20,000 fee.
CMG’s suit seeks to enforce the terms of the original agreement. Meanwhile, Brando’s estate contends that CMG is seeking to make "additional uses" of Brando's likeness beyond the scope of the original agreement.
As IP attorneys, we wonder if Madonna considered the legal issues that would result from including the names of over fifteen Hollywood stars in one song. As this case highlights, securing the rights to use the image, name, or likeness of even one famous person can often require a significant amount of legal wrangling.
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