The Hollywood Reporter -- Madonna is about to resolve litigation with Marlon
Brando's estate over using the late actor's image when she performs the song
"Vogue" in concert.
The lyrics to the song shouts out many celebrities ("Greta Garbo,
and Monroe / Dietrich and DiMaggio ...") and Madonna has made it a habit to use
images of dead celebrities in her set dressing.
But to do so, she arguably needs permission from the estates, and two
lawsuits were filed last year over her alleged failure to get it.
CMG Worldwide, an Indiana-based firm that manages the intellectual property
rights of many dead stars, sued first, looking to protect Madonna. CMG was in
charge of clearing rights for Bhakti Touring Inc, which represented Madonna when
she went out on her MDNA world tour after last year's Super Bowl halftime
Madonna was to pay $5,000 each to the estates of James Dean, Jean Harlow,
Ginger Rogers and others, and CMG thought it had agreed to a likewise deal
with reps for the Brando estate. But according to a suit filed in September,
Brando's licensing reps increased their demands to $20,000, which represented a
problem since it meant that Madonna would then have to also pay $20,000 to each
of the other dead celebs estates thanks to "most favored nation" contractual
clauses. It might have made "Vogue" too costly to be performed as intended.
CMG sued, seeking a declaration that Brando's estate and its agents be
prevented from bringing any lawsuits against CMG, Bhakti and Madonna for
violations of Brando's intellectual property. The plaintiff claimed to have a
valid and enforceable contract.
The Brando estate nevertheless returned fire with its own lawsuit against
Madonna in October, accusing her of having "intentionally, negligently, and/or
willingly used the Brando IP Assets for the purposes of attracting attention to
the Tour, to the individual concerts and to the song 'Vogue' itself and for the
purpose of enhancing the advertising and marketing thereof."
Suing for misappropriation of publicity rights and trademarks, the Brando
estate sought $100,000 for each nonwillful use and $1 million for each willful
The parties have informed the court that they have reached a settlement in
principle, but need time to execute the settlement agreement. Terms haven't yet
been revealed. The Brando estate is known for its litigiousness in protecting
rights, suing in the past over such allegedly exploitive items as motorcycle
boots and sofas. The actor, who died in 2004, won Oscars for On the "Waterfront"
and "The Godfather," and also starred in such films as "A Streetcar Named
Desire," "The Wild One" and "Last Tango in Paris."