Marlon Brando appears to be getting expensive. Licensing agency and intellectual property rights clearinghouse, CMG Worldwide Inc., has accused Brando’s estate of reneging on a deal allowing use of the deceased actor’s name and likeness during Madonna’s 2012 World Tour. CMG manages the intellectual property rights of many deceased celebrities, with one exception being Brando. The Complaint alleges that after entering into a valid and enforceable agreement with Brando’s estate, the estate backed out and demanded more money for use of the late actor’s name, likeness and image. See Complaint.
Madonna is no stranger to utilizing and paying for the publicity right of deceased celebrities. Previously this year, Madonna did just that for her Superbowl half-time show where she performed her 1990 hit “Vogue.” The “Vogue” lyrics mention the names of numerous Hollywood legends, including Brando, Greta Garbo, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Joe DiMaggio and Grace Kelly. The use of each celebrity’s name and likeness was paid for, and Brando was no exception. Brando’s estate received a half-time performance fee of $3,750.
CMG claims that it secured a similar deal with Brando’s estate for Madonna’s 2012 World Tour. Brando’s estate would ultimately receive $5,000 for the use of the actor’s name, likeness, and image per tour performance, which includes use for any future recordings of her tour performances both distributed and sold as well as all upcoming promotions for recorded versions of the tour. According to CMG, the deal with Brando was exactly the same as those deals reached with the other deceased stars and the agreement itself included a “most favored nations” clause that ensures that each star receives equal financial treatment. After an oral acceptance of the deal, followed by acceptance via electronic message, Brando’s estate reportedly upped their fee a week later — to $20,000.
CMG now seeks a declaration of the existence of a valid and enforceable contract between the parties and a declaration of promissory estoppel. Further, CMG is requesting that Brando’s estate be enjoined from bringing any suit against CMG or Madonna and her agents under the agreement. While initially filed in Indiana state court, Brando’s estate recently had the case removed to federal court.
The case is CMG Worldwide Inc. v. Brando Enterprises LP, case number 1:12-cv-01384, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.