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IP Lawyers Meet Tupac's Hologram

At the recent Coachella festival, fans of the late Tupac Shakur fans received an amazing treat when his hologram performed live on stage with Snoop Dogg. According to MTV, a company called AV Concepts worked with rapper and producer Dr. Dre and used Hollywood special effects to bring Dr. Dre's vision of a virtual Tupac performance to life. Discussing the performance, the president of AV Concepts said his company has the ability to virtually recreate deceased people in its studio. "You can take their likenesses and voice and ... take people that haven't done concerts before or perform music they haven't sung and digitally recreate it," he said.

The splash caused by Tupac's hologram quickly brought speculation and brainstorming about the creative possibilities that might lie ahead, including a tour by Tupac's hologram. Other interesting ideas I have heard in the past week include getting the Wailers together with a hologram of Bob Marley; a Michael Jackson hologram tour; a Nirvana reunion with Kurt Cobain's hologram; having the hologram of the late Sean Taylor (formerly of the Redskins) run out of the tunnel onto FedEx field; and so on. The impact of Tupac's hologram is also being felt in the world of intellectual property law, where lawyers who might not have been able to spell "Tupac" two weeks ago are now wrestling with the novel and complex issues that are being teed up by the concept of hologram performances.

One IP issue that has been discussed recently is ownership and usage of a dead person's image. As Ryan Calo, the director for privacy and robotics at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, observed here, "if the fear of dying weren't bad enough, suddenly you lose control over aspects of your legacy." While such usage may be forbidden in cases of commercial exploitation, other cases are far more challenging, such as using a hologram of Martin Luther King to utter words he never said while he was alive.

In this post, IP Brief lays out many of the key IP issues that are raised by hologram performances. They include:

  • copyright licenses for songs performed in new holographic performances;
  • ownership of the holographic performance itself, i.e., "who would own the rights to a public performance of a hologram Tupac rapping an entirely new song?"; and
  • right of publicity protection against people using holographic images of celebrities without permission.

As IP Brief concludes, "it just might be a brave new world for the music industry and for intellectual property laws."

Posted by Bruce Carton on April 23, 2012 at 04:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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