Can Actors Sell Their Digital Clones?

belaljimez's rendered synthespian.

Alan Wexelblat in Copyfight poses a question from a reader about the future of entertainment:

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.

The question apparently stems from a story in Slate, but I wonder how long this will remain an issue. Wexelblat notes that the technical limitations to “true-to-life, fool-an-audience reproductions” are high…for now. While flesh and blood talent rule the silver screen today, the time when they may be replaced is near. But once we cross that threshold, what’s to keep the animators from creating their own characters? And how long before animators and modelers like belaljimez, whose rendering appears above, wrest control of the screen from today’s pretty faces?

Alan Wexelblat, animation, character rights, copyfight, copyright, digital actors, digiwood, hollywood, licensing, selling yourself, synthespians

4 thoughts on “Can Actors Sell Their Digital Clones?

  1. Following Dorothea’s breadcrumb trail, I found this:

    In 1955 Miller received the Hugo Award for his novelette ‘The Darfsteller’ in which a theatre has substituted human actors with life-sized dolls, controlled by the Maestro, also a machine. The protagonist is a former actor, now working at the theatre as a janitor. He secretly takes the place of a doll, planning to give his last great performance. Inside this simple story frame Miller probed the question of human creativity and hazards of mass production of art. “…Whatever you specialize in, another specialty will either gobble you, or find a way to replace you. If you get what looks like a secure niche, somebody’ll come along and wall you up in it and write your epitaph on it. And the more specialized a society gets, the more dangerous it is for the pure specialist. You think an electronic engineer in any safer than an actor? Or a ditch-digger?”

    [tags]Walter M Miller Jr, Walter Miller, The Darfsteller, science fiction, future workplace, job security[/tags]

  2. Without powerful performances behind the digital representation you are still unlikely to get captivating performances. Compare the non-human characters of Gollum or King Kong to that of Jar Jar Binks. Both were full of life and interesting to look at. Now Jar Jar had Ahmed Best behind him who lacks in talent greatly.

    This may not answer the copyright question, but I argue that actors are certainly not going away altogether.

    [tags]jar jar binks, gollum, king kong, andy serkis, ahmed best[/tags]

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