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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Calgary's Reverend Elvis in trademark dispute with Presley's estate

When you take on the role as the executor of an estate, you take it on for life. That is, unless a court tells you otherwise. You might think that once the estate has been distributed and the Releases signed, that's the end of the work, but that's not the case in every estate.

Recently it came to light that a minister in Calgary, known to his congregation as "Reverend Elvis" who works at a church he calls "Your Grace Land" is in a legal struggle with the estate of the late Elvis Presley. The executors of the estate allege that Reverend Elvis is using Presley's likeness and music with his Elvis-themed sermons, his church that evokes the name of Elvis' famous Graceland home in Memphis, and the use of Elvis' name. Click here to read a news story about this.

Good luck with that, Reverend Elvis. I thought it interesting (and not at all helpful to his legal defense) that he tells reporters how much he loves and respects Elvis Presley. I'm pretty sure the fact that you like the person you're copying doesn't mean it's okay to use his image, music, lyrics, and images without permission.

In any event, I'm not here to speculate about the success or failure of that lawsuit. I'm here to point out how the executors of the estate have a duty to safeguard the assets of the estate for their lifetime.  Of course we're not all Elvis Presley and we don't have people imitating us to draw crowds, but the principle is the same. Even after the dust of the estate has settled, if anything comes to light years later, it's still up to the executors to look after it.

If you're the executor for the estate of any person who produces creative work - music, literature, film, paintings, choreography, photography, sculpture, photography, etc - you will always be responsible for deciding who may use, publish, or reproduce those works.

1 comment:

  1. As I understand 'Elvis' continues to sell music and other protected material and so his estate continues to realize income, I expect my question wouldn't apply to the Presley estate specifically.

    If an artist such as a painter or author whose works are no longer in print but following his death, have since been reproduced by others not authorized, how would the estate executor pursue legal action if estate funds have been fully distributed to beneficiaries and there is no ongoing income in which to utilize?


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