Many wedding chapels in Las Vegas that provide ceremonies using Elvis Presley’s likeness were notified by a licensing company to stop using his persona, or pay a significant licensing fee. The demand has led to a local uproar over the Las Vegas legend.
Kayla Collins, co-owner of LasVegasElvisWeddingChapel.com and the Little Chapel of Hearts, told Casino.org this week Authentic Brands Group (ABG) — which represents Presley’s estate and the estates of many other celebrities — has told them to halt the themed weddings or enter a partnership with the company.
But it comes at a price. ABG wants to get about $20,000 a year, Collins revealed.
That offer follows May 19 cease and desist (C&D) letters sent by ABG to Collins’ businesses and many of more than 50 other Las Vegas wedding chapels using Presley’s likeness, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
In the letters, ABG orders the chapels to stop using Presley’s “name, likeness, voice, image, and other elements of Elvis Presley’s persona in advertisements, merchandise, and otherwise,” the Review-Journal reported, citing the C&D letter.
Court action could follow if the chapels fail to follow the order. Collins called the letters “very unfair.”
There have been Elvis weddings in Las Vegas for decades, she said. Presley, when alive and performing in Las Vegas, never complained about them, she adds. The chapels are typically small, independent businesses and cannot afford costly legal battles.
For now, based on advice from her attorney, her chapels are going to continue the Elvis-themed weddings.
Timing With ‘Elvis’ Movie
There is also speculation the letters came as a result of the new movie Elvis that is to be released on June 24. It stars Austin Butler and Tom Hanks.
Interest in the movie could generate more demand for Presley-themed weddings in Las Vegas. Collins confirmed that the new interest in Presley could be behind the timing of the C&D letters.
“I do believe that is a reason for it,” Collins said. “The planning of everything seems so suspicious.”
Casino.org reached out to ABG for comment. No statement was provided.
In a statement published by The Guardian, ABG said there was “no intention to shut down chapels that offer Elvis packages in Las Vegas.
We are seeking to partner with each of these small businesses to ensure that their use of Elvis’ name, image and likeness are officially licensed and authorized by the estate, so they can continue their operations,” the statement said.
“Elvis is embedded into the fabric of Las Vegas history, and we are committed to protecting and expanding his legacy for generations to come.”
ABG acquired a controlling stake in Presley’s estate in 2013 from Core Media Group, according to news reports.
Weddings Help Economy
Wedding chapel owners point out that many of those who head to Las Vegas for a Presley-themed wedding will stay in local hotels, may visit casinos, and go to shows. They generate money for the local economy.
Overall, Las Vegas destination wedding ceremonies are a significant part of the state’s tourism sector. The entire wedding industry produces $2 billion a year. Clark County issued its five-millionth wedding license in February.
Clark County Clerk Lynn Goya has warned the new crackdown could destroy a portion of the wedding industry. It could also lead to lost jobs.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman is concerned about the letters, too.
“Our wedding industry has been struggling through the pandemic and the economic devastation it has caused,” Goodman told CNN.
“These obviously are not people or a company that give a hoot about this community or its people.”
From Collins’ point of view, the wedding chapels should have the same legal protection given to Elvis Presley live stage shows held in Nevada. She says the chapels, too, are providing entertainment.
But Mark Tratos, an entertainment lawyer at Las Vegas’ Greenberg Traurig law firm who also teaches at UNLV law school, said the wedding chapels are “not performing live stage shows.” They are performing wedding services marrying persons as Elvis Presley.
Whether those that have received the letters are performing live entertainment and thus fall within the statutory exemption has yet to be proven,” Tratos told Casino.org.
Robert Jarvis, a law professor at Florida’s Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard College of Law, further recommends that businesses using a celebrities’ name, image, and likeness (NIL) enter into a licensing agreement.
Companies like ABG want to enter into licenses to make money for their clients,” Jarvis told Casino.org. “It’s really that simple.”
If businesses using a celebrities’ name, image and likeness refuse, they need to find another line of work, Jarvis said. “Otherwise, be prepared for the possibility of nasty and expensive litigation.”
The law in this field comes from something called the “right of publicity,” Tratos explained.
When Nevada’s law was enacted in 1989, it allowed performances by impersonators who were attempting to entertain, educate, and amuse, Tratos said.
It is also notable that Presley died in 1977. The 50th anniversary of his death will be in 2027.
“The Nevada statute … allowed this right to continue for a period of 50 years following the individual’s death,” Tratos said.
“It is not uncommon for owners of such rights to send cease and desist letters and attempt to clear the field of unauthorized users before an authorized user’s product release occurs. But we have no information that would justify assuming that is what is happening at present.”
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