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Law sparks ugly fight over pretty star pix

Oct. 7, 2007 at 7:46 PM

SACRAMENTO, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger must decide whether to sign a bill giving an heir more control over a dead star's name and image.

Currently, states have a variety of laws governing what happens when stars die, the Telegraph reported Sunday. In some states, celebrities’ image rights -- which can be worth millions -- die with them. In other states, heirs retain the rights.

The new California law, spearheaded by Anna Strasberg, owner of Marilyn Monroe’s estate, would require anyone who wants to use the image of Marilyn Monroe, or any other celebrity, to pay a licensing fee to the heirs or estate.

Strasberg inherited rights to the actress’s image from her deceased husband Lee Strasberg, the acting coach to whom Marilyn left most of her estate.

In Monroe’s case, the new law would mean anyone wanting to use the star’s image would have to pay Strasberg a fee, even if the image is owned by the photographer who created it.

Yoko Ono, Al Pacino and the estates of the tennis champion Arthur Ashe and the baseball legend Babe Ruth support the bill, passed by the Legislature last month, the newspaper said.

The changes, they say, would give heirs the ability to prevent images from appearing on inappropriate items like underwear.

But photographers, who have a large financial stake in the matter, say the new rules would be unfair. In the case of Marilyn Monroe, photographer Sam Shaw would no longer own his famous photo of the star’s dress being blown up by a subway vent taken for the Seven Year Itch, even though, opponents of the law argue, the photo helped make her famous.

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