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March 15, 2006
What Right in Digital Actors?
A Copyfight reader pointed me to a Slate story on digital thespians. Epstein talks about two kinds of digital creations: wholly new 'synthespians' as well as digitized representations of actual actors (Tom Hanks for Polar Express; Sean Connery for the From Russia with Love game). Although the technical hurdles to such captures remain quite large - especially if your goal is true-to-life, fool-an-audience reproduction - the reader's question was different.
To wit: what rights do you purchase/license/contract for in creating such a reproduction of a real person? Rights to the "likeness?" Performance rights? Do either of these cover things the actor never physically did or said? Is there an exclusivity clause? There are clearly some issues around the ownership of a character, if that character has appeared before (e.g. Connery's Bond) but usually the character rights reside with the studio. But if you want the Connery Bond instead of a generic James Bond you also have to incude Connery in the deal, as well as whatever studio or estate has the Bond character rights.
IANAL, but I'm hoping some of my readers are or can point me to resources from people who've actually worked in this area.
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