Descendants of long-dead Hollywood stars may win greater power to control exploitation of their image – dealing a blow to photographers? rights – under legislation proposed in the United States.

It could also have repercussions worldwide warns Victor Perlman, managing director of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) who told Amateur Photographer (AP): ?If enacted, this legislation would affect UK citizens and entities who publish images of celebrities who are covered and in violation of the legislation.?

As it stands, the right to control a celebrity?s image does not apply if they died before 1985, following a California federal ruling in May.

But the controversial new bill would extend these legal rights to images of celebrities who died before 1985 ? affecting the right to use photographs of film stars like Marilyn Monroe to sell products, for example.

The bill was proposed after the recent use of ?unauthorised? images of Monroe for commercial purposes on items such as underwear – 45 years after the film star?s death.

Opponents fear that if such a law is passed it could remove photographers? rights to license celebrity images, nullify existing ?publicity rights? of images in the public domain and spark a flood of lawsuits in US courts.

In a letter to its 5,000 members worldwide, the ASMP warns that the move could damage photographers? businesses, publishers and galleries.

Though, in practical terms it may be difficult to apply US/California jurisdiction in the UK, Perlman claims the ?violations would still be there?.

Also fearing its impact on the right to license celebrity pictures is Milton H Greene Archives, an Oregon-based firm named after the photographer who shot around 3,000 pictures of Monroe. ?My clients owned the copyright on the [celebrity] photos,? said the firm?s attorney, Surjit Soni in an interview published in the Los Angeles Times.

? A full report will appear in next week?s issue of AP which is available to subscribers from Saturday