L.A. TECH & MEDIA LAW FIRM – Intellectual Property & Technology Law

Legality of the Marilyn Monroe AI – Celebrity Publicity Rights

Celebrity Publicity Rights- Legality of the Marilyn Monroe AI Avatar - L.A. Tech and Media Law Firm - Los Angeles Media Attorney - Malibu Technology Law Firm - Ventura County Startup Lawyer

The advent of AI technology has ushered in a new era of digital interactions, exemplified by the recent creation of a “hyper-real” AI-generated avatar of Marilyn Monroe. This digital resurrection allows fans to engage in conversations with the late actor, utilizing advanced natural language processing and deep learning to deliver responses “in Marilyn’s signature voice and style.” But what does this mean for celebrity publicity rights?

Understanding Celebrity Publicity Rights

Celebrity publicity rights are legal provisions that protect the commercial use of a celebrity’s name, image, voice, signature, or likeness. These rights are crucial for preventing the unauthorized exploitation of a celebrity’s persona. In California, a hub for the entertainment industry, these rights are especially stringent, offering protection that extends for 70 years beyond the celebrity’s death.

Under California law, the right of publicity protects celebrities and public figures from unauthorized commercial use of their name, image, voice, signature, or likeness. Governed by both statutory law (California Civil Code Section 3344) and common law, this right is designed to prevent exploitation of a celebrity’s persona without their consent. The statute not only provides for damages but also allows for the recovery of profits made from unauthorized use, as well as punitive damages and attorney’s fees in cases of knowing infringement. Importantly, California’s right of publicity extends beyond a celebrity’s lifetime, offering posthumous rights to their heirs or estate for 70 years after the celebrity’s death, as outlined in California Civil Code Section 3344.1. This makes California’s laws among the most protective of celebrities’ publicity rights in the United States, reflecting the state’s significant entertainment industry interests.

The Legality of Digital Resurrections

The project involving Digital Marilyn, spearheaded by AI technology firm Soul Machines in partnership with Authentic Brand Groups, raises questions about the legality and ethics of reanimating celebrities. While these digital avatars provide an innovative way for fans to connect with icons of the past, they also navigate a complex legal landscape governed by celebrity publicity rights.

Celebrity Publicity Rights- Legality of the Marilyn Monroe AI Avatar - L.A. Tech and Media Law Firm - Los Angeles Media Attorney - Malibu Technology Law Firm - Ventura County Startup LawyerThe Implications for Celebrity Publicity Rights

The creation of digital avatars like Digital Marilyn challenges traditional understandings of publicity rights in several ways:

  1. Authorization: The partnership with Authentic Brand Groups, which manages the rights to Marilyn Monroe’s image and likeness, highlights the importance of securing authorization from the rights holders before creating such digital experiences.
  2. Commercial Use: The project’s goal to connect brands and consumers through AI introduces commercial elements that are directly subject to publicity rights laws. Ensuring that these ventures do not infringe on the commercial rights of the celebrity’s persona requires careful legal navigation.
  3. Posthumous Rights: California’s extension of publicity rights beyond a celebrity’s lifetime into the domain of their heirs or estate presents additional layers of consent and authorization necessary for projects like Digital Marilyn.

The Role of Legal Expertise for Celebrity Publicity Rights

As AI technology continues to evolve, the role of legal expertise in guiding these innovations becomes increasingly critical. The intricacies of celebrity publicity rights demand thorough understanding and careful consideration to ensure that projects like Digital Marilyn honor and respect the legal boundaries set forth to protect celebrities’ legacies.

Consulting with an Entertainment Attorney

For those exploring the intersection of AI technology and publicity rights, consultation with a knowledgeable attorney is paramount. An expert in the field can provide insights into the legalities of using a celebrity’s likeness, navigating the complex web of statutory and common law protections.

The case of Digital Marilyn Monroe opens up exciting possibilities for fan engagement and brand interaction, but it also serves as a reminder of the legal considerations at play in the age of AI. Celebrity publicity rights serve as a vital check on the use of a celebrity’s persona, ensuring that their legacy is handled with care and respect.

As we look towards the future of digital avatars and AI technology, understanding and adhering to these rights will be key to unlocking their full potential while respecting the legal and ethical standards that protect our beloved icons.

Are you navigating the complexities of celebrity publicity rights in the age of AI? Contact L.A. Tech and Media Law Firm to schedule a consultation with Startup Attorney David Nima Sharifi. Ensure your project respects the legacies of celebrities while embracing innovative technology.

Picture of David N. Sharifi, Esq.
David N. Sharifi, Esq.

David N. Sharifi, Esq. is a Los Angeles based intellectual property attorney and technology startup consultant with focuses in entertainment law, emerging technologies, trademark protection, and “the internet of things”. David was recognized as one of the Top 30 Most Influential Attorneys in Digital Media and E-Commerce Law by the Los Angeles Business Journal.
Office: Ph: 310-751-0181; david@latml.com.

Disclaimer: The content above is a discussion of legal issues and general information; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be used as such without seeking professional legal counsel. Reading the content above does not create an attorney-client relationship. All trademarks are the property of L.A. Tech & Media Law Firm or their respective owners. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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