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Thread: What do you think of the CGI use of famous people, once they have died?

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    What do you think of the CGI use of famous people, once they have died?

    I'm not really happy with it, say in an advert or a movie. I used to look forward to the idea of great actors being on the screen again, but where is the consent?

    You could used a famous person's persona and appearance, in a movie that they wouldn't have agreed with, or agreed to act in.

    For example, you could put someone who was very anti-war, in a pro-war movie, say Gandhi, for example.

    Of course the descendants of the person may agree with it, but that still isn't consent, to me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by WaxRubiks View Post
    I'm not really happy with it, say in an advert or a movie. I used to look forward to the idea of great actors being on the screen again, but where is the consent?

    You could used a famous person's persona and appearance, in a movie that they wouldn't have agreed with, or agreed to act in.

    For example, you could put someone who was very anti-war, in a pro-war movie, say Gandhi, for example.

    Of course the descendants of the person may agree with it, but that still isn't consent, to me.
    Generally, many of the images of recent celebrities (like Elvis) are copyrighted, usually held by their estates, and so they have to consent to the use of their image (though I gather that there is still a little lack of clarity legally).

    As to your question, for the most part I couldn't care less. No one with half a brain is going to think Gandhi approved of war because CGI Gandhi said so and I'm not going to buy some brand of beer because CGI Elvis liked it.
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    Oh. I thought the OP was claiming that Gandhi was a pro-war movie.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WaxRubiks View Post
    You could used a famous person's persona and appearance, in a movie that they wouldn't have agreed with, or agreed to act in.
    And I think a lawsuit would almost certainly follow, at least for the more recently deceased. It's a developing area of law but celebrities already appear to be taking steps to protect their image posthumously. I read that before his death, Robin Williams had setup a trust to protect his name, signature, and likeness from unauthorized use for 25 years.
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    An example: The novel Dracula is public domain. However, if you depict the character and he looks like Bela Lugosi, Universal Pictures will give you grief.

    (So will Bela G. Lugosi. The actor's son is a famous lawyer who was hired by the families of The Three Stooges to protect their likenesses from free use.)

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    With regard to the OP, is there something special about CGI? People depict deceased people all the time. Any historical movie is depicting deceased people without asking.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    With regard to the OP, is there something special about CGI? People depict deceased people all the time. Any historical movie is depicting deceased people without asking.


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    Well, it is the intent, and the way CGI can accurately fake someone's appearance, and probably voice as well. If you used a really good lookalike, I think that would be a problem too, potentially.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    With regard to the OP, is there something special about CGI? People depict deceased people all the time. Any historical movie is depicting deceased people without asking.
    The key difference being, said actors are not wearing the decedent's face. Heck, we're lucky if the actor even bears a passing resemblance. But in another way, CGI isn't that special, I suppose. There are already restrictions on the use of an actor's likeness in still images, such as photographs and paintings. Legally, I think CGI will be treated as an extension of the principle.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    The key difference being, said actors are not wearing the decedent's face. Heck, we're lucky if the actor even bears a passing resemblance. But in another way, CGI isn't that special, I suppose. There are already restrictions on the use of an actor's likeness in still images, such as photographs and paintings. Legally, I think CGI will be treated as an extension of the principle.
    I think that's true, but I think the OP was asking about famous deceased people such as Gandhi, who are not actors and are not protected by any copyright.
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    I generally despise it, but there are degrees of wrongness.
    Clips of Carrie Fisher in a Star Wars film, said clips having been filmed but not used for a previous film: Not so bad.
    John Wayne advertising for terrible American beer: Incredibly stupid.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    Clips of Carrie Fisher in a Star Wars film, said clips having been filmed but not used for a previous film: Not so bad.
    What about the scene of CGI Carrie Fisher in Clone Wars?


    I suspect that Lucasfilms has gained the rights to the depiction of the Princess Organa persona in perpetuity, by way of her contract.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    I suspect that Lucasfilms has gained the rights to the depiction of the Princess Organa persona in perpetuity, by way of her contract.
    Nope. Carrie Fisher gave approval for "Rogue One." Fisher's estate said that they would give approval for CGI for Episode IX, but the producers decided against it.

    As for non-CGI methods, that's actually how this all started - Crispin Glover did not return as George McFly in "Back to the Future II", and the producers hired a new actor and used makeup and prosthetics to make him look like Glover (they also used footage of Glover from the first movie for some scenes). Interestingly enough, they also replaced the actress who played Marty's girlfriend Jennifer, but did not use any prosthetics or makeup to try to recreate the original actresses appearance.

    Glover sued. The case was settled out of court, but the agreement to not recreate an actor's appearance without the actor's (or estate's) approval was part of the settlement. There have been additional legal suits over other cases, so I'm not entirely sure what the current legal rights and obligations are, but the SAG union will use that agreement to protect its members, at least.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanF View Post
    Nope. Carrie Fisher gave approval for "Rogue One." Fisher's estate said that they would give approval for CGI for Episode IX, but the producers decided against it. ...
    I think they had or felt they could get permission, but decided against CGI for IX. They will use footage from VII that didn't make it into the final version.
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    with fake news all around, the ability of cgi to realistically mimic photography, there is even more danger of "influencers" changing history to suit their agendas. there is no easy legal framework for libel or slander based on a realistic opinion simulated about a dead famous figure. We already have conspiracy theories turned into film and then interpreted as history. it becomes much more powerful if you manipulate a Kennedy or a Churchill or an Angelou, into a fake revision of history.

    Ages ago it was shown that people cannot tell the origin of an opinion if it is delivered by an actor. You cannot judge the actual sex, age or politics of the source when so voiced. The cgi of real people can use this powerful piece of psychology to be more persuasive.

    And there is no need to harp about the danger of fake news in public opinion, not a new thing but more powerful now than ever before.

    So I would support a new set of laws to protect the reputation of dead people to be quite draconian about the use of their image to say or do things they never actually said or did. That's not the same as expressed opinions about dead people, it's specific to cgi and possibly doppleganger actors.
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    It's not a new issue, either. There were commercials years ago showing Fred Astaire with a vacuum cleaner. His widow approved them. His children were less happy. The widow was their stepmother.
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    in English law you cannot libel the dead since they have no reputation to damage. I imagine it's the same in USA only more so. The law never anticipated using a person to push a message which they might never have said. The reputation did not anticipate trashing a reputation by using cgi either. So it really need new laws to protect us the listeners as well as the dead person's reputation. Using old faces in movies is just the thin end. Adverts using dead is next and then revision of history. we often rely on newsreel evidence. cgi can totally alter the meaning or introduce people who were not there, it's been done in fiction, a short step to changing history as fake fact.
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    Iím sorry to be contrarian, but I donít think the idea of extending libel protection to dead people is a very good idea. Just imagine a movie like The Last Temptation. People would sue on behalf of Jesus. But how can you judge what he really said or didnít say?


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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    in English law you cannot libel the dead since they have no reputation to damage. I imagine it's the same in USA only more so. The law never anticipated using a person to push a message which they might never have said. The reputation did not anticipate trashing a reputation by using cgi either. So it really need new laws to protect us the listeners as well as the dead person's reputation. Using old faces in movies is just the thin end. Adverts using dead is next and then revision of history. we often rely on newsreel evidence. cgi can totally alter the meaning or introduce people who were not there, it's been done in fiction, a short step to changing history as fake fact.
    The deceased definitely have reputations. They however don't have lives to be ruined by virtue of being dead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Glom View Post
    The deceased definitely have reputations. They however don't have lives to be ruined by virtue of being dead.
    Exactly. A dead person doesnít get hurt by being libeled, so why bother to protect them?


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    "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."

    Wait ... is this the right thread?

    More on topic, historical figures (George Washington, Helen Keller, Betty Grable, Jesus) can be portrayed in movies, but using their CGI likeness and saying it's them should require the permission of their heirs/estates. A deceased person's reputation can certainly be libeled. And for an actor, their physical image could be considered their property/creation and subject to protection, even after death.
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    Slightly relevant - a current TV commercial shows Alexander Graham Bell (depicted by an actor rather than CGI) being the loud guy in a the theater taking a phone call ("No, you have the wrong number, my number is 1"). Fine print at the bottom of the screen says this is done with the permission of the Alexander and Mabel Bell Legacy Foundation. I guess just to avoid any confusion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Exactly. A dead person doesn’t get hurt by being libeled, so why bother to protect them?
    A bit of a blanket statement, I think and inaccurate at that. Defamation can result in damages being suffered not only by the targeted individual but also their families, businesses, charitable foundations, and other associations that live on well after their death. Look to the virtual lynch mobs so prevalent on social media platforms for numerous examples.

    But really, I don't think the defamation issue is the overriding concern as far as frequency goes. I think the most common case would be misappropriating a performer's likeness for financial gain. At least in the US, the law already recognizes a performers rights to the use of their likeness and upon their deaths, the rights of heirs and/or trusts to whom they have been transferred. My impression is that the current laws are probably written with enough flexibility to cover CGI recreations. The industry and the courts will just have figure it out.
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    I think this law would be very problematic. Who would have standing to sue on behalf of a deceased person's reputation? I obviously "own" my reputation, and can take legal steps to protect it. But who "owns" my reputation after I'm gone? My spouse? Children? Grandchildren? Great-great-great-great grandchildren?

    Is Colonel Sanders' reputation - and the rights to control visual reproductions of him - "owned" by his family, or by KFC? Is Babe Ruth's owned by the New York Yankees?

    Gillian mentioned the vacuum cleaner commercial with Fred Astaire, approved by his widow but not his children. If the company had the widow's approval, could they still be held liable if sued by the children? What if one child approved but another didn't?

    And why limit it to CGI? The "Back to the Future" case I mentioned involved simple prosthetics and make-up. If the problem is the degree of resemblance to the actual person, the method of achieving that resemblance shouldn't matter - and, either way, we would then need to somehow define how close of a resemblance is too close. It's arguable, especially the farther back into history we go (so the less first-hand knowledge viewers have of what the actual person looked like), that putting make-up on a real person would be more "convincing" than a CGI creation - less "uncanny valley."

    Lots of issues here, I think.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Exactly. A dead person doesnít get hurt by being libeled, so why bother to protect them?
    Would you be fine with someone creating fake photos of you doing . . . something wrong with a child after you've died?

    Legacies can be ruined. Look at Bill Cosby. He was one of the most beloved comedians until it came to light how terrible he is. He'll be hated forever, and by extension his body of work has been dunked into a pool of diarrhea.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ngc3314 View Post
    Slightly relevant - a current TV commercial shows Alexander Graham Bell (depicted by an actor rather than CGI) being the loud guy in a the theater taking a phone call ("No, you have the wrong number, my number is 1"). Fine print at the bottom of the screen says this is done with the permission of the Alexander and Mabel Bell Legacy Foundation. I guess just to avoid any confusion.
    One thing I like about that commercial is that Bell says "Ahoy" when answering the phone, which is historically correct (NPR.org).
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    The courts have apparently ruled that unless the heirs are defamed itís just tough cookies for the dead.

    http://www.rightsofwriters.com/2011/...-john.html?m=1

    It seems that, whenever a notorious celebrity dies, tell-all biographies appear within a few months -- or even weeks -- filled with unflattering new disclosures. One explanation for this phenomenon is (to quote Judge Robert Sack, the author of one of the two leading treatises on libel):

    ďThe dead have no cause of action for defamation under the common law, and neither do their survivors, unless the words independently reflect upon and defame the survivors. ď

    Rodney Smolla, the author of the other leading treatise, concurs:

    ďThere is no liability for defamation of the dead, either to the estate of the deceased or to the deceased's descendants or relatives.Ē

    The rule seems to be much the same under UK common law, as summarized in this piece from the BBC.
    See the link for more.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Exactly. A dead person doesn’t get hurt by being libeled, so why bother to protect them?


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    I’m not worried for the dead, as is the law, my worry is for us when we get revised history or revised facts from simulated trusted dead folks, like Einstein say, or plenty of examples.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    Would you be fine with someone creating fake photos of you doing . . . something wrong with a child after you've died?
    After I've died? I don't think I'd care. For what it's worth, though, the ability to create fake photos of someone has been around for almost as long as photographs have, and (AFAIK) we've never needed a law about it.

    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Iím not worried for the dead, as is the law, my worry is for us when we get revised history or revised facts from simulated trusted dead folks, like Einstein say, or plenty of examples.
    Then I'd suggest the area of "CGI recreations" is far too narrow a focus.
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    Quote Originally Posted by schlaugh View Post
    The courts have apparently ruled that unless the heirs are defamed it’s just tough cookies for the dead. ...

    Rodney Smolla, the author of the other leading treatise, concurs:
    “There is no liability for defamation of the dead, either to the estate of the deceased or to the deceased's descendants or relatives.”
    I find that surprising. While it's quite true that "the dead have no cause of action," I should think that if, say, Elvis's Estate lost money due to someone's malicious, defamatory, and false claims about Elvis, then they should be liable for that loss. To the Estate.

    Come to think of it, I assisted in a suit against the Layton Police for constitutional defamation on behalf of the Subway sandwich shop that was wrongly reported to have let one of its workers drug the drink of a police officer. As this news article explains, Layton City settled right away with the kid who was wrongly charged (there never were any drugs! The cop had a panic attack or something!), but we lost the constitutional defamation on behalf of the Subway. The standard was pretty high.

    If someone is killed in a car accident due to someone else's negligence, the dead guy doesn't sue the liable party. An heir typically becomes the personal representative of the deceased's estate, and perhaps the wife and children, they're the ones who sue, for their loss.
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanF View Post
    After I've died? I don't think I'd care. For what it's worth, though, the ability to create fake photos of someone has been around for almost as long as photographs have, and (AFAIK) we've never needed a law about it.


    Then I'd suggest the area of "CGI recreations" is far too narrow a focus.
    I agree it is only one part of the fake fact problem but its an important new part that the law has not caught up with. Never before might you be presented with a face on video saying things that you are inclined to believe just because that face is both famous and trusted. If it were a written account, you have the chance to check in a different way from being told by video. The act of cgi is hard to trace back, it’s anonomous opinion hiding behind a well trusted face and voice. We would have to rely on others challenging those falsehoods and they might find it hard to get a platform.

    Ordinary photography allows people to be taken out or put into history. It has been done to suit governments that want to control history, just as they control written accounts. The cgi use of well known people is another step along that path. At the. Moment it would be legal to do that because the law has not anticipated the technology. It’s forgery.
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