Frankenstein, the Wolfman and The Mummy may not be folks you think of as having any descendants, but the actor who played them, Lon Chaney Jr., does and the scariest part of all is – they have lawyers. (Aiyeee!)
The Hollywood Reporter says the actor’s heirs have sued Universal Studios for $1 million for exploiting the dead star’s likeness.
Universal had deals with Chaney to exploit his name, voice, signature, silhouette (!) and other aspects of his persona. But an agreement whereby Chaney appointed Universal as the exclusive representative over likeness rights expired in 2008.
Chaney Entertainment says that despite the end of the term of that deal, Universal continues to negotiate licensing agreements that concern his rights with various manufacturers.
[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]
Since copyrights and trademarks are headed toward becoming eternal when some large corporation holds them, I guess we expect this sort of nonsense for the next couple of hundred years … sooner or later, though, people will forget who Mickey Rooney, Albert Einstein and Homer Simpson are, and their images will be worthless. Finally it will become legal to pinch the image of Fred Flintstone to paint on the sign over your laundromat!
Heirs of a few comic actors filed suit years ago, and it was agreed they have a say in controlling who does what. It’s a grey area, defining who is public and who is private business.
It also applied to The Metropolin Museam in NYC, for selling ties with reproductions of paintings on them whose heirs control the images’ output, since the images had not become public domain.