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Who Owns You?

August 21, 2012

I remember when the movie Forrest Gump came out, there was a brief cry about the fact that the movie makers had taken real people and “created” history using their images.  In particular, the use of presidents (especially Kennedy, for some odd reason…) was highlighted.  It quickly went away because, honestly, nobody cared.

Of course, at that point, money hadn’t entered the equation.  Now it has, and Tupac brought it all to light.

When Tupac Shakur rose from the stage in the California desert earlier this year, it was not only a jaw-dropping resurrection, but also the beginning of a new form of live entertainment.

Follow, they will. Elvis Presley‘s estate announced it has authorized holograms of the King of Rock, Marilyn Monroe‘s estate has expressed interest and there’s no shortage of other beloved stars whose fans would die to see them perform again.

They forgot to add, “for a price.”

I’m mostly interested in who actually owns an image.  First-world copyright laws and all that seem to say it’s the actual person, but go ask any random person and they’ll tell you that they’ve attended many an event where they’ve given up their rights with the purchase of the ticket.  Any political event, rock concert, public showcase, etc… there’s that fun disclaimer about you not having any rights to your image or video, and you don’t even have to sign.

“You start to open up a whole new universe of legal questions,” said Ed Ulbrich, Chief Creative Officer of Digital Domain, which is also working on the Presley holograms. “As such, we have no intentions of doing anything other than being utterly respectful of these legends and icons.”

This isn’t a, “get off my lawn,” post.  My image is in several places that I don’t own, and I’ve even had a photographer contact me to ask me to take down a picture of me that was given to me, because he took it and he felt he owned it.  Years from now, when he needs an ugly guy in a Hawaiian shirt, I’m all his, I guess.  I don’t have much of a problem with this, because I understand that first-world legal niceties don’t matter much fifty years from now, so… um, whatever.

But I do think it interesting that people are so excited to see others memorialized and even, “brought back from the grave,” like some macabre digital puppet.  I suppose it’s one thing to see the attention-starved celebrity up on the stage, and another to see Grandpa randomly brought out from the archives.  I would imagine that, once the concept goes beyond just pulling up a star and becomes finding extras in a digital paradise from the rock concert footage, we’ll see a different attitude to the concept.

Not that it’ll stop it.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 22, 2012 4:49 pm

    Very interesting. How about when we go past holograms and into robotic replicas?

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