The government of Poland began displaying Milton Greene’s photos of his friend Marilyn Monroe in August, to much notoriety.
The Polish administration had received nearly 4,000 photos in a 1995 financial settlement with a Chicago man accused of bilking Poland out of millions. The photo archive was a partial restitution payment.
Now, the government has begun selling the photos, and Monroe’s estate, which has earned $27 million licensing use of the late star’s image, has wanted royalties from Poland’s sales. This has led to a dispute in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco: Milton H. Greene Archives, Inc. v. Marilyn Monroe LLC, Anna Strasberg, and CMG Worldwide Inc. Strasberg is widow of Monroe’s acting coach Lee Strasberg, who inherited 75 percent of the Monroe estate and was named its executor. CMG is a marketing and investment firm for celebrities.
On Aug. 30 a ruling came from a three-judge panel saying the estate can neither block the sales nor receive royalties. A 2007 California law would allow extraordinary rights for celebrities’ estates. But the judges concurred that Monroe’s estate has claimed she was a New York resident, negating any claim under the California statute.
“Monroe’s representatives took one position on Monroe’s domicile at death for forty years, and then changed their position when it was to their great financial advantage,” Judge Kim Wardlaw wrote for the three-judge panel.