Celebrity estates filing lawsuits appears to be a trend. Long after a celebrity passes away, his or her estate still controls valuable assets. Copyrights, trademarks, and image rights can last for decades and celebrity estates are increasingly seeking to protect them for as long as possible. The latest such lawsuit was filed by the estate of legendary composer George Gershwin.
Gershwin’s estate has long had an agreement with Warner Music. The company was given the right to license and sell Gershwin’s music in exchange for paying royalties to Gershwin’s heirs. The new lawsuit alleges that Warner Music has been underpaying those royalties and has engaged in other accounting discrepancies. The estate claims that a recent audit revealed the issues and they are seeking at least $15 million in damages.
Although it is too soon to know how this particular case will turn out, these types of lawsuits are likely to continue to increase in the future. More and more money is constantly at issue over the rights to deceased celebrities’ intellectual property and images. That will always lead to more conflicts and some minor celebrity estates are starting to have to deal with the issues. If you have intellectual property rights, make sure that you provide a way for your heirs to deal with them in your estate plan. That will make protecting them easier.
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