Estate struggles to maintain Diana's image

Unauthorised books could cheapen the memory of the Princess, write Paul Mungo and Ian Burrell
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Next week, CMG Worldwide, an American company which specialises in the protection and marketing of the names of "legends past", will arrive in London to meet with Anthony Julius, the solicitor handling the estate of the late Princess of Wales.

The meeting comes amid concern that the legend of Diana may be cheapened by a wave of tacky memorabilia and a flood of unauthorised books. There are 10 Diana tomes either already published and distributed or about to be released in the next fortnight. No fewer than 17 more have been mooted.

The immediate cause of concern to the Diana estate is Andrew Morton, whose reworked and rehyped version of Diana, Her True Story is almost certainly going to be a worldwide bestseller all over again. Morton, who has been widely criticised for cashing in on the Princess for a second time, made a reported pounds 4m from his original book. He is said to be about to earn a further pounds 2m from the new edition called Diana, Her True Story - In Her Own Words. Morton has pocketed pounds 100,000 or thereabouts by selling transcripts of his taped interviews with Diana, Princess of Wales, to the glossy American gossip magazine People.

Morton, who says his purpose for releasing his revised edition of Diana, Her True Story is because of its importance as an historical document, has been accused of "heaping more agony" on the Princes William and Harry.

Conservative MP Anne Winterton called Morton "an absolute first-class rat" while Bob Geldof described him as a "loathsome creep". Earl Spencer, the brother of Diana, said he was distressed and saddened by the publication of the book.

The executors for the Princess of Wales, who include the Princess's mother, Frances Shand Kydd, and her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, have taken advice about stopping publication of his updated book. The legal argument is thought to centre on the ownership of the tape recordings made by the Princess of Wales with the now-notorious and still unidentified intermediary, and subsequently passed to Morton. Morton has told ITN: "These tapes are my copyright. They are my property."

He may well be right. Media lawyers said yesterday Earl Spencer had little hope of claiming copyright over the tapes.

"Unless he can prove there was an agreement beforehand between Diana and Andrew Morton placing restrictions on the use of the tapes, Earl Spencer has no chance," a copyright specialist said.

The estate could have more luck in copyrighting the Princess of Wales' name and image. CMG Worldwide, whose "clients" include Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Humphrey Bogart, has succeeded in blocking the use of Bogart's image in commercial material. It was also able to generate substantial income for the Jesse Owens estate by skilful marketing at last year's Atlanta Olympic games.

Roger Bull, senior business licensing officer at the Copyright Licensing Agency, said the Diana estate would need to register her name, image and likeness with the Trades Marks Registry as a registered trademark. He said: "In copyright terms there is no difference in acknowledging that Princess Diana can be copyrighted and protected in the same way that Manchester United can be. If the estate wishes to protect the physical reproduction of her image onto products I believe they are entitled to do so."

There may, however, be limits to this protection. In March this year, in a case brought by the estate of Elvis Presley against an east London memorabilia shop called Elvisly Yours, the judge ruled that "there is nothing akin to copyright in a name" and "similarly, Elvis did not own his appearance". This could be interpreted to mean exactly what it sounds like it means, and deprive the Princess of Wales' estate of control over her name and her likeness.

Legal action may be too late anyway. The first 500 copies of Morton's revised opus, priced at pounds 15.99, went on sale on Friday in the Gower Street branch of Dillons. By closing time, the books had sold out. Dillons on Oxford Street sold out its allocation of 500 copies by yesterday morning.

The new edition of Morton's book contains little that is new, apart from a hastily cobbled-together chapter about Diana's relationship with Dodi Fayed and another about her funeral. The controversy arises in a section entitled "In Her Own Words", which consists of extracts from the disputed tapes. Though the facts in the extracts are well known, their impact is magnified by reading them in the Princess's own words.

Michael O'Mara, the publisher of Diana, Her True Story, previously announced that a "substantial" donation was to be made to a charity for victims of landmines, a cause championed by the Princess. An announcement in the book states this donation has already been made (though it is no longer referred to as "substantial"). Both O'Mara and Morton have refused to disclose the name of the charity. Or indeed, the precise meaning of "substantial".