Author: Mark Penner and John P. Beardwood

About Mark Penner and John P. Beardwood

John is a senior partner who Chairs the firm’s Technology practice group, and was Co-Founder of the Outsourcing practice group. His practice is focused on technology, outsourcing and procurement and privacy law matters.

“Zombie” Privacy & IP Rights: Protecting the Rights to an Individual’s Image after Death: Part 2 of 2

Part 2: Intellectual Property

In Part One of our series on protecting individuals’ images after their death, we examined the privacy rights that govern the use of these ‘zombie’ celebrities, just in time for Halloween. We considered what privacy rights attach to dead celebrities, and whether these rights can be exercised by their estates/heirs. In this Part Two, we will consider what intellectual property rights could govern this so-called resurrection of dead celebrities!

As you will recall from Part One, it is not surprising that movies and concerts are reaching back to long dead stars to “perform” for audiences. What intellectual property rights govern the resurrection of a dead celebrity? If property rights are the best way for a deceased’s heirs to protect the image of the deceased, how can the “property” regime of intellectual property rights assist?

There are a number of statutory IP regimes as well as common law causes of action which can allow online influencers and the estates of deceased celebrities to control and monetize these valuable assets and continue to monetize as technology allows them to do so.

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“Zombie” Privacy & IP Rights: Protecting the Rights to an Individual’s Image after Death: Part 1 of 2

Part 1: Privacy

James Dean could soon be starring in a new movie, over 60 years after his death! In what would be his fourth movie role, Dean’s image could be superimposed on a live actor for the film Finding Jack.  Animating deceased celebrities is not new however: a holographic image of deceased musician Tupac Shakur debuted at the CochellaTM music festival as far back as 2012.

Possible through the magic of computer technology, it would seem that deceased celebrities are as popular as ever and still command significant attention.  It is not surprising that movies and concerts are reaching back to long dead stars to “perform” for audiences. There will likely be no new scandals with these celebrities and they can be made to do whatever the creators have in mind without any “diva” pushback. While not everyone welcomes these developments, it will likely become more common as the technology continues to improve.

However, “employing” such “zombie” celebrities raises fascinating new legal issues, in particular in the areas of privacy law, and intellectual property law. 

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