It might be mind blowing to some, but the idea of a virtual version of a celebrity such as Marilyn Monroe is now a reality. Since it treads new ground, lawyers are getting involved to fight over who has a right to what. A growing phenomenon of virtual reality versions of deceased celebrities has become the forefront in the question of who owns someone’s image and “persona” after they’ve died. In an almost surreal science fiction universe that’s become real life, the Marilyn Monroe estate has threatened to sue a virtual reality hologram maker for creating her likeness. Now, that company is suing the Marilyn Monroe estate to demand that they back down and leave it be.
The fight, say legal experts, could determine the future ownership of true-to-life images and likenesses created digitally rather than by an artist’s hand. A painter, for example, can paint a portrait of Marilyn Monroe and face no legal challenges to his or her right to do so. A digital artist creating a moving, talking version of the iconic blond? The courts will decide.
The story of this legal fight over who can make a Marilyn Monroe hologram was broken at The Hollywood Reporter, which publicized the lawsuit. The Estate of Marilyn Monroe, says the suit, are getting in the way of a computer-generated character called Virtual Marilyn. Patent lawyers have been fighting who owns rights to project digitally-created personas on stage, however, and this is the latest in a string of such battles. The Hollywood Reporter points to the war over Michael Jackson’s image as an example.
“I knew I belonged to the public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful, but because I had never belonged to anything or anyone else… I am not interested in money. I just want to be wonderful.”
The Estate of Marilyn Monroe could be merely going through its last throes before dying out, however, as a recent court decision changed jurisdictions for the Estate’s claims over the rights to Marilyn Monroe’s likeness. Because Monroe was technically living in New York at the time of her death, the court decided the laws of that state apply rather than those of California. This radically changes what the estate of the deceased bombshell can claim, meaning they forfeit many of the claims they’ve used to rake in tens of millions every year.
For their part, says the Daily Mail, the Estate of Marilyn Monroe is countering by saying that the virtual Marilyn will “confuse customers.”
For her part, the well-loved Hollywood actress has been in the limelight since her death in 1962. Most recently, tabloid-like speculation over her possible love interest in an acting coach caught the eye of the Inquisitr and other publications.
This latest claim could be the final straw for the Marilyn Monroe estate as well. The claim in their suit is that because Marilyn never filed for trademarks on herself, and that she never signed agreements that her persona would be used only to create exclusive profit for her heirs, the Monroe estate has no claim to her persona or likeness. They also include the above-quoted statement from Marilyn Monroe as proof.