Holographic Performances From Dead Celebrities – Awesome? Or Despicable?

Today, we will be exploring an article titled Dead Celebrities are being digitally resurrected — and the ethics are murky, written by Jenna Benchetrit and published by CBC News. While it’s not the first time I have heard of this concept (nor seen it explored in pop culture, as in the case of Black Mirror), I have never really stopped to consider the implications. That is to say, how I would respond to coming across one of my cherished idols or artists digitally resurrected for my enjoyment.

Being the nature of the subject, the resulting conclusions can only be subjective. We will all naturally come to a different stance based on the many things that make us all . . . us. As such, this will be (for the most part) more an act of personal exploration than ethical vetting. Nonetheless, feel free to share your views in the comments if you wish.

Let us begin.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/dead-celebrities-digital-resurrection-1.6132738?cmp=newsletter_CBC%20Newsletter_4450_299391

 

Hologram performances, artificial voices and posthumous albums pose tough ethical questions, critics say

It’s a modern phenomenon that’s growing increasingly common with innovative technology and marketing appeal: the practice of digitally resurrecting deceased celebrities by using their image and unreleased works for new projects.

Michael Jackson moonwalked at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards years after his death; rapper Tupac Shakur performed at the 2012 Coachella music festival, though he died in 1996; and late singer Aaliyah’s estate spoke out recently after her record label announced that some of her albums would be released on streaming services.

A slew of recent controversies have renewed complicated questions about whether projects involving the use of a deceased celebrity’s likeness or creative output honours the artist’s legacy or exploits it for monetary gain. 

Prince’s former colleague released a posthumous album comprised of songs the artist recorded in 2010 then scrapped; an artificially-engineered model of Anthony Bourdain’s voice was used in a new documentary about the chef and author’s life; and a hologram of Whitney Houston will perform a six-month Las Vegas residency beginning in October 2021.

 

Interestingly enough, this brings to mind a conversation (a debate of sorts) I had with a friend some years back at work. Him being a fan of old school grunge and the Seattle scene, he hated the reincarnation of Alice In Chains with the presence of a new lead singer. At the time, I recall viewing the sentiment towards the name as kind of silly (what difference does it make?). I happened to like the music of both configurations of the band, so the sentiment that they should have proceeded under a different name seemed . . . purist.

Then around 3 years later, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park fame died by suicide. Upon considering my previous viewpoint at some point later, I was struck by the realization that I had similar reservations about someone else fronting Linkin Park in place of Chester Bennington. I had no real rational reason for this. It just felt weird for someone else to step into the role that of someone that I had become familiar with since my teen years. Hybrid Theory and Meteora came out when I was in high school. I literally grew up with this band as part of the soundtrack of my life.

Even though I stopped paying as much attention to most of the releases after Minutes To Midnight, it still felt . . .weird.

But that was years ago. Having not thought about it since probably 2017, I’ve realized that most of the sentiment towards the name Linkin Park (likely a result of the death being so recent at the time) is gone. Which it seems is not a moment too soon since the rest of the group (mostly on hiatus since 2017) is starting to release remixed and new material starting in 2020. So far there has been 1 track re-released in August 2020 and a remixed released in January of 2021. We will see what goodies the rest of LP have for us in the coming post-pandemic years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linkin_Park#2020%E2%80%93present:_Return_to_music

This isn’t even the first time I’ve had this inner dialogue, either. It also occurred back in 2016, when I heard (with horror at the time) that Axel Rose of Guns & Roses infamy was set to replace ACDC’s Brian Johnson, who was forced to retire due to hearing problems. This was not on account of sentiment either (remember that Brian Johnson replaced the deceased Bon Scott back in 1980). More, it was due to the volatile and infamous nature of Rose himself. Though his antics are well known and documented (up to and including inciting a riot in Montreal), even my aunt has a story of annoyance associated with working security at a G &R show (the band came on stage an hour late).

An interesting side note of the Montreal riot . . . lost to history is the fact that Axle was also suffering from a torn vocal cord at the time of the incident, which seems to have weighed into the decision. This, along with the fact that only around 2000 people (of the 10,000ish in attendance) were thought to have participated in the riots.

This is also something that I have not thought about for a long time. Probably because, as it turns out, the 23 show ACDC collaboration appears to have gone off without a hitch. And though the group was on hiatus since 2016, the 2014 lineup reunited in 2020 to release Power Up, an album that I enjoy.
Not that ACDC has ever put out an album that I didn’t enjoy.

Sure, the music is simple in comparison to the various shades of metal that I’ve since moved on to. Yet, it also remains enjoyable since the group is delightfully unserious when it comes to songwriting, never fearing to tread into the low brow. As evidenced by the 2020 track Money Shot, a tune that made me laugh out loud.
And one can’t complain much of the simplistic nature of the pub rock genre, because if you want something more, look no further than Airbourne (like ACDC. they also started in Australia). Though it is obvious who their influences are, they certainly take things to a whole other level.

Sticking to the topic still, we come to another band that I grew up with that changed frontman. Three Days Grace.

Growing up, I used to think of the first 2 3DG albums as another soundtrack to my teenage years. I also liked (and own) the subsequent 2 albums under the original lineup. But when lead singer Adam Gontier left the group and was replaced by Matt Walst of My Darkest Days,  it took some (who am I kidding . . . MUCH!) persuasion to appreciate the new Three Days Grace.

Or, Nu 3DG as it were.

But as it turned out, the unexpected change of lineup was not the awful thing that times closer to the change made it out to be. Under the lead of Matt Walst, Three Days Grace has moved into a newer and more interesting sound. And Adam is heading an equally interesting project in St. Asonia. The best of both worlds.

Also worth noting is the Foo Fighters. While I am almost certain that Courtney Love would NOT have let Dave Grohl and the rest of the trio continue forward under the Nirvana brand, it would be interesting to see what the results of a different timeline would have been. For example, the ACDC timeline.

Would fans embrace the new frontman (as seems the case with ACDC)? Or would they detest the new configuration (as with AiC)? 

Whatever the case does not matter, anyhow, since the Foo Fighters did perfectly fine even without the old brand behind them.

Looking back at this, it’s funny that I once looked at my friend’s distaste of NU-AiC as amusing and purist. As it turns out, I am just as human in my distaste of the alterations of the familiar. Hell . . . it’s one of my biggest critiques of many baby boomers that I know, and of the generation in general. The lack of interest in even trying to accept the new, let alone accepting that the old way is largely on the way out. Often for good reason.

So much have I pondered this that I now conclude that change is almost always actually a good thing for a band.

The first example of this that comes to mind is Seether. Their first 3 albums were also part of the soundtrack of my teenage years, with the 4th coming out just as I was coming of age as an adult. Though I still liked the fourth album despite its slight move away from what one was used to, I can’t stand anything released afterward.
The same goes for Theory of a Deadman. I liked the first 2 albums, but what followed was Gawd awful.  I don’t normally throw away music that I own, but I did toss The Truth Is because, for the life of me, I didn’t know why I spent $15 or $20 on it.

Remember buying CDs?

Yeah . . . I don’t miss it either. I do miss the days before people like me and streaming sucked much of the money out of the music industry, forcing artists old and new to resort to commercials and advertising as a steady income stream. But I suppose that is a different entry altogether.

Either way, rare is the musician from my childhood that has continuously put out new material, yet avoided the pitfall of toning it down for mainstream popularity. So rare is the case that only Billy Talent comes to mind as an artist that bucked the trend.

No matter the backlash, when artists decide to do the seemingly unthinkable and make a big change, the results are almost always alright. Another example that I just recently discovered was Aaron Lewis. Best known by me (and probably most people) as the lead singer behind Staind, imagine my surprise in discovering Country Boy in a country playlist. I can’t say that I like it, per se. But it’s certainly different, and Aaron is suited for the genre.

Considering that I used to hate country, the fact that I’m starting to get accustomed to some of it is shocking in itself. And I do in fact mean some of it. Though I like a couple Dierks Bentley songs and a Joe Nichols tune that most people likely know among some others, the pickings are slim. Aside from learning that a coon dog isn’t an incredibly racist lyric, I still find the formulaic nature of much of the country genre to be annoying.



To be fair, much of what I am describing is prescribed to a category within Country music that many call Bro-Country. Having said that, even the old-time stuff tends to lean in this direction. Hence why also can’t stand Alan Jackson or Toby Keith (he irked me long before the Red Solo Cup abomination).

I am very selective indeed . . . but it’s a hell of a change from a year ago. Not to mention that I figure it would be hard to find someone that has everything from Slipknot, to Weird Al, to Dierks Bentley on the same playlist.

But at long last, I come to the topic that the readers have come here for . . .  holograms.

 

Michael Jackson moonwalked at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards years after his death; rapper Tupac Shakur performed at the 2012 Coachella music festival, though he died in 1996; and late singer Aaliyah’s estate spoke out recently after her record label announced that some of her albums would be released on streaming services.

* * *

Prince’s former colleague released a posthumous album comprised of songs the artist recorded in 2010 then scrapped; an artificially-engineered model of Anthony Bourdain’s voice was used in a new documentary about the chef and author’s life; and a hologram of Whitney Houston will perform a six-month Las Vegas residency beginning in October 2021.

 

This is certainly an interesting thing to ponder. Though I CAN think of 1 reason why I would not want to see Micheal Jackson moonwalking in a show post-humously, the ethical reasoning has nothing to do with him being dead. Frankly, the same goes for anyone that would want to present a holographic Kobe Bryant. I find the continued praise and worship of both those people to be problematic, but again, that is a whole other post.

To boil it down:

1.) While one should always reserve judgement, the evidence weighs heavily in one direction. As does the fact that the case was settled out of court.

2.) Micheal Jackson was NOT proven innocent, contrary to how Twitter recently reacted. The court only dismissed the notion of the victims that 2 companies representing Jackson’s interests had any bearing of responsibility towards their safety and welfare. Nothing more.

Moving on from that red hot potato, I come to Tupac Shakur and Whitney Houston. When it comes to these 2, I am neutral. Assuming that neither said anything in life against the concept of post-humous holograms and assuming the concept isn’t going against either majority fan or estate wishes, I see little issue with it. It is but a new medium for the broadcast and display of recorded media, after all. In my opinion, no different than watching a Whitney Houston music video on YouTube. Or as I happen to be doing at this moment, listening to the long-deceased Johnny Cash in MP3 form.

I know . . . who still does that?!

Speaking of times changing, we come to the release of dead artist’s music on streaming platforms. Short of the artist taking issue with it in life (as seems would be the case with Prince), I have little issue with it.
For all intents and purposes, the cat is already out of the bag. In fact, it has been since the debut of Napster in 1999, continued to be so in the early 2000s with the decentralized P2P platforms, and continued ever beyond in the realm of torrents and discographies. Today, people scrape YouTube videos for audio.

And even that isn’t really correct anymore, with most people using ad or subscription-based streaming services. My preferred choice is YouTube Music since it comes with fewer limitations than Spotify (though I use Spotify for podcasts).

Any artists refusing to join the streaming platforms at this point are just pissing into the wind. This is not to say that the modern monetary sharing scheme is optimal (cause it’s not. It’s even more shit than it was in the past!). Nonetheless, however, when even the Nirvana and Tool catalogues can now be streamed, you know we’re in a different era. 

As for using machine learning algorithms to reanimate the voice of the now-deceased Anthony Bourdain, however . . . THAT IS WHERE I DRAW THE LINE! 

Yeah . . . just kidding.

Personally, having seen Desperate Housewives back in the day (remember the homophobia of seasons 1 and 2? That didn’t age well :/ ), the idea of a show narrated by a character deceased from the plot is interesting. 
As much as I’d love the Bourdain doc to open with a line like “Guess what, guys! I’m dead!” (I can see him doing something like that!), it probably wouldn’t go over well with the normies among us. 

No one seems to take issue with a dead Paul Walker showing up in a run of the mill Holywood movie, but throw a dead guy joke into a Bourdain documentary . . .

*GASP*

CANCELLED!

 

Ethical and legal ramifications

It’s a matter of both ethics and law, but the ethical concerns are arguably more important, according to Iain MacKinnon, a Toronto-based media lawyer. 

“It’s a tough one, because if the artist never addressed the issue while he or she was alive, anybody who’s granting these rights — which is typically an executor of an estate — is really just guessing what the artist would have wanted,” MacKinnon said.

“It always struck me as a bit of a cash grab for the estates and executors to try and milk … a singer’s celebrity and rights, I guess, for a longer time after their death.”

According to MacKinnon, the phrase “musical necrophilia” is commonly used to criticize the practice. Music journalist Simon Reynolds referred to the phenomenon of holographic performances as “ghost slavery,” and in The Guardian, Catherine Shoard called the CGI-insertion of a dead actor into a new film a “digital indignity.”

 

This is indeed an almost cut and dry case when it comes to copyright law. Though it sounds like one single area, what copyrights equate to are a great many single rights.

Say I am writing a book called “Crazy Cats of New Haven”. The moment the pen hits the paper (or the finger hits the keyboard), the resulting document in its entirety is covered under international copyright law. However, beyond just being your proof in a court of law, having this control over the main copyright also means you have control of any other rights whether currently available or future. For example:

  • audiobook
  • audio (song?)
  • theatrical (movie? play?)

The reason I am aware of this is on account of a short copyright course I took aimed at aspiring authors. Instructed by a seasoned and published author, the goal was to introduce us to a sample book contract and ensure we are aware that not all contracts are alike. Like every other area of the media and entertainment industry, not all publishers are equal.

This is where the future rights portion of this comes in. Though I have yet to come across my first contract at this point, most are said to automatically include every right that is available and future rights. Or in normie speak, if the project ever blows up and goes cross-platform (eg. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter), the publisher is often in a much more powerful position than the author or writer.

And this isn’t uncommon either. The writers in the music industry often make peanuts even if they write hits.

 

Songwriters are guaranteed a royalty from every unit sold (CDs, vinyl, cassette, etc.).

These royalties are paid out differently in different countries, but in the U.S., they come out to $0.091 per reproduction of the song – nine cents every time a song is reproduced/sold.

In other countries, the royalty is paid out at 8 to 10% of the value of the recording.

What does this equate to?

Take the song “Pumped Up Kicks” – a huge hit for Foster The People. The track sold 3.8 million copies and the album itself sold 671,000 copies.

The frontman of the band Nate Foster has the sole writing credit on the song, so he collects every penny of the mechanical royalties, which would come out to around $406,861.

And that’s just the mechanicals. There are other ways that song was making money – it received a ton of radio play and was licensed on TV shows like Entourage, Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, which added to Foster and the band’s earnings.

 

Digital Download Mechanical Royalties

Digital download mechanical royalties are generated in the same way physical mechanical royalties are generated, except they are paid whenever any song is downloaded.

iTunes, Amazon, Google Rhapsody, Xbox Music, all generate and pay these royalties to songwriters whenever a song is downloaded.

Again, these are paid out at a rate of $0.091 per song.

Streaming Mechanical Royalties

Streaming mechanical royalties are generated from the same Reproduction and Distribution copyrights, but are paid differently.

They are generated any time a song is streamed through a service that allows users to pause, play, skip, download, etc.

This means Spotify, Apple Music, TIDAL, Pandora, etc.

In the U.S. (and globally for the most part) the royalty rate is 10.5% of the company’s gross revenue minus the cost of public performance.

An easier way to say this, is that it generally comes out to around $0.005 per stream. Less than a cent!

How Much Do Songwriters Make Per Song, Per Stream & In Other Situations?

An easier way to put the last sentence is that its sweet fuck all.

Imagine that many nations in the world quit manufacturing the 1 cent penny because of its production cost (over a cent!). Most songwriters earn less than that.

 

The problem here is as obvious and immediate as a whacking great pop hook.

Think of the biggest songs on Spotify over the past decade. Here they are, courtesy of Kworb:

  • Ed Sheeran – Shape Of You (1.77bn streams);
  • Drake – One Dance (1.48bn streams);
  • The Chainsmokers – Closer (1.28bn streams)
  • Luis Fonsi – Despacito Remix (1.07bn streams)
  • Post Malone – Rockstar (1.05bn streams)

All of them were co-written, alongside the featured artist, by very talented people.

Some of these co-writer’s names: Steve Mac, Johnny McDaid, Shaun Frank and Jason ‘Poo Bear‘ Boyd.

How many people amongst Spotify’s 75m paying subscribers, you wonder, heard songs written by these people and thought; ‘I love that track – I want to play it now… I’ll try Spotify.’

And then: ‘Wow, this service is amazing, I’m going to pay for it.’

Yet the songwriters who penned these tracks presumably aren’t getting a penny for their compositions from corporate Spotify stock sales.

Instead, they’re being left out in the cold during one of the industry’s most historic windfalls.

Songwriters got screwed by the Spotify equity bonanza. The industry has to ask itself questions.

 

Now that we have explored all the reasons why MB Man will never be writing any songs anytime soon, let’s move onto the movie industry. We will now explore the shady realms of Hollywood Accounting. How to turn a multi-billion dollar grossing blockbuster into cash bleeding loss.

 

On today’s Planet Money, Edward Jay Epstein, the author of a recent book called The Hollywood Economist, explains the business of movies.

As a case study, he walks us through the numbers for “Gone In 60 Seconds.” (It starred Angelina Jolie and Nicolas Cage. They stole cars. Don’t pretend like you don’t remember it.)

The movie grossed $240 million at the box office. And, after you take out all the costs and fees and everything associated with the movie, it lost $212 million.

This is the part of Hollywood accounting that is, essentially, fiction. Disney, which produced the movie, did not lose that money.

Each movie is set up as its own corporation. So what “lost money” on the picture is that corporation — Gone In 60 Seconds, Inc., or whatever it was called.

And Gone In 60 Seconds, Inc. pays all these fees to Disney and everyone else connected to the movie. And the fees, Epstein says, are really where the money’s at.

https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2010/05/the_friday_podcast_angelina_sh.html/

 

May I first note that the last name appears to be coincidental in this case. Unsurprising, given my doubts that Jeffrey Epstein would like having an investigative journalist around the island of rich pedos.

ANYWAY . . .

That is how you turn a billion-dollar grossing moneymaker of a film into a cash-losing flop. And as usual, I veered off-topic.

Well, sort of. We now know the stance of the entertainment industry in terms of ethics . . . there are none. Given the power afforded to the rights holder, I suspect that we will see a lot more deceased celebrities doing everything from performing in Vegas to selling coffee and toothpaste on TV commercials.

Just kidding . . . clearly the cash is now in YouTube and Spotify ads.

 

Richard Lachman, an associate professor at Ryerson University who researches the relationship between humans and technology, said that as artists age and develop a better sense of their legacies, they may take the time to protect their images and file appropriate contract clauses. 

But not every artist will grow old. Indeed, a common thread between many of the artists whose works and likeness have been used in this capacity is an unexpected or accidental death.

Prince died in 2016 of an accidental opioid overdose, Anthony Bourdain died by suicide in 2018 and Whitney Houston drowned in her bathtub in 2012 as a result of heart disease and cocaine use. Tupac, Amy Winehouse and Aaliyah all died unexpectedly at young ages. 

Lachman said if this is the case, then it’s possible that clauses accounting for image use didn’t get written into wills. He also noted that artists who die prematurely don’t grow old, giving an impression of perpetual youth that reminds audiences what an artist looked like in their prime.

And while fans might be protective of the artists they love, they’re also the primary consumers to whom these digital resurrections appeal.

“Yes, we know that [a hologram of] Whitney Houston is not the real Whitney Houston,” Lachman said. “But it’s a chance for us to engage in some of that fan behaviour, something that binds us to one another.”


I agree with the final sentence.

As explained earlier, I am not against the concept of posthumous holograms. Even taking the Whitney Houston hologram example and replacing her likeness with Chester Bennington or Warrel Dane (2 artists that mean much more to me than Whitney Houston), I still don’t really find myself against the concept. Assuming that the family and/or next of kin is on board with the process, this seems to be just an ultramodern example of what we have been taking for granted for decades. The ability to store information onto various mediums. 

First came the song. Then the video. Now, potentially, the whole experience. Whether the experience is to be predetermined (akin to a pre-recording) or interactive (play out based on the audience, presumably) depends on the technology.

Though I can see why this kind of thing may be considered horrifying by some, consider the opportunity. Before now, if your favourite artist were to die, that is it in terms of opportunities for interaction. Though there may be shows if their surrounding act decides to continue, the opportunity of seeing the artist live will never happen again. Particularly notable when it comes to solo acts.

For people who have never seen that artist live, this may well be the opportunity of a lifetime. Indeed, it’s not the REAL thing. But it’s a very special opportunity nonetheless. An opportunity that my grandfather (who died in 1998) did not have in his lifetime.

For this reason, those in charge of these shows will have to be extra careful when it comes to smooth and flawless production performances. Not only will these performances serve as a typical live show, they will also serve as the farewell tribute that many of us wish we could have had with long-lost loved ones (beloved celebrities included). Auditoriums housing such performances may be wise to keep lots of tissues on hand.

 

For some, releasing archived material might not seem as harmful as resurrecting a person with virtual reality, MacKinnon said.

“I think there’s different degrees and a spectrum of uses that can be made of dead performers.”

 

There is no doubt no comparison between the 2. If it was not explicitly trashed by the artist, it may well have ended up released later in their career anyway.

The Prince example from earlier has to be mentioned, however. The posthumous release of an album of songs written by (and scrapped by!) Prince. Prince’s feelings towards the material were clear. Any person of ethics and integrity would know to leave the trash in the trash.

So naturally, they took the other path and cashed in on the fanbase for some cash. 

There will always be unscrupulous actors in an industry devoid of ethical and moral virtues. Thus, it is important not to let their actions dictate our opinion of anything we are speaking of. Unscrupulous people will always be unscrupulous, after all.

 

Prince is an artist who’s been on both sides of that spectrum.

Last month, his posthumous album Welcome 2 America was released to fanfare. But there was another controversial incident in which it was rumoured that a hologram of Prince would perform alongside Justin Timberlake at the 2018 Super Bowl halftime show. The plans were eventually scrapped, with Prince’s ex-fiancée Sheila E. confirming that Timberlake wouldn’t go through with it. 

The incident renewed interest in a 1998 interview with Guitar World, in which Prince said performing with an artist from the past is “the most demonic thing imaginable.”

 

I don’t know who had the bigger say in this decision, but if it was Justin Timberlake, good on him for seemingly honouring the wishes of Prince. Seemingly, because I can only imagine how much public pressure was driving the decision. This is the age of social media and Twitter, after all.

 

Sarah Niblock, a visiting professor of psychology at York St. John University in York, England, who has long studied Prince and co-wrote a book about the artist, says efforts to dig into his vault and use his image for profit are in contention with his publicly expressed wishes.

“He was fully in control of his output, sonically and visually, and the way everything was marketed, and of course, those who performed with him and all of his artists that he produced,” Niblock said.

The situation is further complicated because Prince didn’t leave a will when he died. Without one, “a person’s estate can exploit or license those rights if they want to,” MacKinnon said.

While the legal boundaries are relatively clear, the ethical question of whether an artist is being exploited or not is subjective.

For Niblock, digital resurrections that enrich the estate and its executors at the expense of an artist’s known wishes cross a line.

“Trying to somehow use that death to create a mythic quality that the artists themselves would have not necessarily intended, to then market that for money … I mean, it’s extremely cynical and disrespectful.”

 

There is no respect in capitalism. Only profits.

 

Legal considerations must be made before death

While promoting his new documentary Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, director Morgan Neville said he had recreated Bourdain’s voice using machine learning, then used the voice model to speak words Bourdain had written.

The incident prompted a wave of public discussion, some of it criticism levelled at Neville.

A tweet from Bourdain’s ex-wife suggested that he wouldn’t have approved. A columnist for Variety considered the ethical ramifications of the director’s choice. And Helen Rosner of The New Yorker wrote that “a synthetic Bourdain voice-over seemed to me far less crass than, say … a holographic Tupac Shakur performing alongside Snoop Dogg at Coachella.”

Recent incidents like the Bourdain documentary or Whitney Houston’s hologram residency will likely prompt those in the entertainment industry to protect themselves accordingly, said MacKinnon.

 

Having considered things a bit (and watched the Tupac Coachella appearance), I would hardly consider it as crass. The audience in attendance certainly didn’t. Nor do most of the people in the YouTube comments. Nor do the 274k people that liked the video (verses around 6k dislikes). I’d say the only people that cared were exactly where they should be . . . NOT AT THE SHOW!

Feel free to check it out for yourself. It was linked in the CBC article, believe it or not.

 

“I think now, if they haven’t already, agents, managers, lawyers, performers are all going to be telling their clients that if they care about this, if they care about how their image is used after they die, they need to be addressing it right now in their wills.”

Robin Williams is a notable example of a public figure who foresaw these issues. The late actor, who died by suicide in 2014, restricted the use of his image and likeness for 25 years after his death.

 

It’s cool that Robin Williams had the foresight to consider this before his tragic demise. While I am not as averse to the thought of a post-humous Robin Williams comedy special as I would have been closer to 2014, the man has spoken.

We have indeed entered a new era.

A passing thought . . . though we will never know what opinion past comedians like George Carlin or Bill Hicks would have of this technology, I sense that both would have a lot of fun with it.  

 

Hologram technology improving

According to both Lachman and MacKinnon, artists would do well to make similar arrangements, as the technology behind these recreations will only get more sophisticated.

Holograms of Tupac at 2012 Coachella and Michael Jackson at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards were produced using a visual trick from the Victorian-era called “Pepper’s Ghost,” named for John Henry Pepper, the British scientist who popularized it.

In the illusion, a person’s image is reflected onto an angled glass pane from an area hidden from the audience. The technique gave the impression that the rapper and the king of pop were performing on stage.

Nowadays, companies like Base Hologram in Los Angeles specialize in large-scale digital production of holograms. The recreation of Bourdain’s voice was made possible by feeding ten hours of audio into an artificial intelligence model.

Lachman said that it will become “almost impossible” for the average consumer to know the difference between a hologram creation and the real person. 

He said that while the effects are still new and strange enough to warrant media attention, digital resurrections will continue to have an uncanny effect on their audience — but not for much longer, as audiences will likely grow accustomed to the phenomenon.

Though he said there may be purists who disagree, it seems like audiences have been generally accepting of the practice.

“It seems like the trend is we’re just going to get over it.”

 

I agree. This phenomenon, as somewhat creepy and new as it is, ain’t going anywhere. But as far as I’m concerned, that is a good thing.

There will no doubt be people that will take advantage of this technology so long as celebrities don’t take precautions. Such is the world we live in. Aside from that, I’d say we have a very unique opportunity.

Certainly for tasteful send-offs of beloved stars and musicians (imagine something like a Whitney Houston final Farewell tour). Beyond that, really, the sky is the limit.

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