As to whether you can use these images, the short answer is, No...you can't.
The medium-length answer is Yes, you can, but you risk getting your
butt sued, big time.
The long answer is complex.
Your question actually involves several different areas of law,
and...since you didn't specify where in the world you are
located...also involves considerations of law in many different
jurisdictions around the world.
Before venturing forward, though, please note the disclaimer at the
bottom of this page: Google Answers is no substitute for professional
legal advice, so take everything here with the appropriate grains of
Now to your question.
The specific image of Marilyn Monroe with her skirt blowing up is one
of the most famous celebrity photos of all time. The image is most
certainly copyright, and if you use it in any recognizable fashion,
you will most likely run afoul of copyright law in just about any
jursidication on the planet. If your work should come to the
attention of Marilyn Monroe's estate, they may well take legal action
What about Marilyn's face more generally, or anyone's image for that
matter? A person's face is not, in and of itself, copyrightable or
trademark-protected. Does this mean you are free to make use of a
As a rule of thumb, you can't. A person's likeness is protected by
something called Publicity Rights, sometimes known as Personality
Rights. If you want some background on the topic, a good resource is
the Wikipedia article on the topic:
which covers the topic globally.
The link provided by pinkfreud-ga in the comments section (below) also
has a wealth of detail.
A person's publicity rights are by no means absolute. Celebrity
images get reproduced all the time -- in tabloids and magazines, as
well as by artists and impersonators. When Andy Warhol made his
famous prints of Marily Monroe:
I rather doubt he had permission, though I don't know that for a fact.
As you can see, some exceptions are made...for news, parody, research,
and some types of artistic expression.
However, the exceptions are limited, are not well defined, and vary
from one jurisdiction to the next, so it's very difficult to find
"safe ground" for reproducing a famous likeness. This is particularly
true in the US, where publicity rights are defined state-by-state,
rather than by federal law, so you can be okay in New Jersey but get
sued for all you've got in, say, Oklahoma!
I hope by now you get the picture. There isn't a way to do what you
want to do without attracting the attention of the personalities whose
images you're using, at which point, there is a very good chance that
they will get the lawyers involved pronto.
Here are a few links where you can read a bit more on these topics:
...The Right of Publicity prevents the unauthorized commercial use of
an individual's name, likeness, or other recognizable aspects of one's
persona. It gives an individual the exclusive right to license the use
of their identity for commercial promotion.
...The right of publicity is generally defined as an individual's
right to control and profit from the commercial use of his/her name,
likeness and persona, which shall be referred to in this article as
the "individual's identity". Protecting the individual from the loss
of commercial value resulting from the unauthorized appropriation of
an individual's identity for commercial purposes is the principle
purpose of this body of law.
...The right of publicity makes it unlawful to use another's identity
for commercial advantage without permission.
I trust this information fully answers your question.
However, please don't rate this answer until you have everything you
need. If you would like any additional information, just post a
Request for Clarification to let me know how I can assist you further,
and I'm at your service.
All the best,
search strategy -- Used bookmarked sites for intellectual property law.