Tupac’s hologram: who else wants to live forever?
Tupac isn’t Jesus (though some fans would disagree) but he rose from the dead to rap about the afterlife at the Coachella music festival in California.
Okay, so it was a digitally created 3D image of Tupac, but audience members reported it was creepy, like seeing a ghost.
This had me wondering — is rising again going to be the new trend for celebrities? And if yes, what are the issues associated with resurrecting performers using holographic images?
Let’s examine these questions by having a look at the legal issues.
Was it legally aight (apologies for the ghetto slang) for Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg to construct an image of Tupac on stage?
After all, this was a use of Tupac’s image and likeness for commercial reasons, and must be authorised only by the holder of the ‘right of publicity’ for Tupac.
It turns out Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur, is the executor of Tupac’s estate, which owns the rights to publicity of Tupac’s image. The word on the street is she not only authorised the use of the image but she is also pretty chuffed by the outcome it brought.
Dr Dre made a contribution to Tupac’s charity, Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, as repayment for the permission to use Tupac’s image. In this instance, then, all ended well.
Dr. Dre says he’d be pretty keen to resurrect a whole bunch of dead celebs to perform with him, including icons such as Jimi Hendrix and Marvin Gaye.
Apparently, Dre’s not the only one excited by the prospect.
The Jackson brothers are putting together a reunion tour for next year and perhaps they’ll have a holographic version of Michael to perform with them.
Then there’s Whitney Houston’s estate, which is reported to be up to its knees in debt. I wouldn’t be surprised if the estate saw this as an excellent opportunity to make good.
This totally begs the question of who’s next? Elvis? Marilyn Monroe? Perhaps Amy Winehouse? They all rank highly on Give It Mouth’s list of top Twitter accounts of deceased celebrities.
The Michael Jackson estate is a fascinating case to keep an eye on. Often the family of an artist who passes away will control the estate, but in the case of Jackson, that job’s been given to professionals.
Another hot tip to watch is Ray Charles’ estate. Both the Jackson and Charles estates have generated court fights between the family and the professionals in charge.
It’s easy to predict disagreements about the use of holographic images if the executors of the estate give permission against the wishes of the family members, who might foreseeably be pained to see son/daughter/mother/father raised from the dead.
Even between family members there can be disagreement over the extent to which images should be used.
Take as an example Bob Marley’s estate, which has been the centre of disputes over this very issue including a recent lawsuit by the estate, controlled by Marley’s mother, suing one of his half-brothers.
That case involves the right to sell Mama Marley fish products and use the Marley name in connection with a popular music festival.
The Jimi Hendrix estate faced similar court fights between half-siblings, one of which involved “Electric Hendrix Vodka.” The use of the name of Marley in this instance is pretty innocuous compared with the use of his holographic image.
As this New York Times piece put it:
[T]he reanimated dead are never the people they were before. Oh, they sing the same, and rap the same, and have the same distinctive tattoos and hand gestures. But they don’t have the complexity, or the humanity, to really compel our interest.
They’re ghosts — ghosts in a new machine, perhaps — but at best they are no more than the shadow of the shadows that they cast upon us, back when they were alive.”
Pale imitations can mean massive profits accumulated from fans who miss their beloved idols.
Holographic performances will surely generate profits from devoted fans who miss their fallen idol. And as long as the okay is given by the executors of an estate, it’s all legal.
Protecting your image
So what does all this mean for those of us who do not have legions of hungry fans willing to pay big bucks to see a lesser version of us in 3D?
Is any of it relevant to us? My answer is ‘yes’.
We all have names and reputations that outlive us. We want to make sure these are protected after we pass away. This need becomes exacerbated in the instance of family business owners who rely on their reputations for the ongoingness of their goodwill.
Is your image and reputation important to you? Will it also remain a concern for your heirs after you’re gone? How can you ensure that you are protected?
These are legitimate concerns that don’t often exist on the radars of folks during estate planning. Most people see creating a Will or trust as an exercise only in delegating who gets what.
However, making the right choices about who protects your reputation after you are gone could affect outcomes that resonate well beyond when your goods and assets have been distributed.