I See Dead People: Kurt Cobain and The Humanity of Avatars

Kurt Cobain singing Bon Jovi, a sacrilege according to his widow and estate manager, Courtney Love.  Even though she licensed the use of his image as an unlockable guitar hero in the new game by Activision, her lawyer says:

” Love’s lawyer told the TMZ.com Web site: “Activision is exploiting Kurt’s image in a manner anathema to the very essence of his music, spirit and essence. I along with Ms. Cobain hope those who love Kurt’s music strongly voice their sentiments to Activision and demand his image not be debased by singing the songs of Bon Jovi.””

We are now entering the time of some sort of reincarnation through the avatars of the deceased. People like John Wayne, Kurt Cobain, Fred Astaire, and yes, Michael Jackson take a lifetime to build a personal brand and the time is fast approaching where they can be reincarnated to be in video games, web apps, cell phone apps, and eventually movies yet again.  Since Courtney Love approved the use of Cobain's likeness – perhaps she nor her legal team truly understood the implications of having Cobain live again inside the x-Box and PS-3's of the world's gamers. Truly, I don't know if any of us understand this.

As some have noted, there is discussion now of a new separate right called “publicity right” and truly, the discussion of this has been around since the 1991 Diet Coke Commercial which featured Elton John, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Louis Armstrong.  When the daughter of Lucille Ball, Lucie Arnaz complained about her Mom being used in California Lottery ads, she said:

“It's like creating the H-bomb,” she says. “You could have Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, who little children all over the world know and recognize, talk about getting a great education, talk about safe sex, talk about don't smoke, don't drink. Or you could have them making porno movies.””

And this is precisely the point – how can a living breathing person who is no longer living and breathing protect the sanctity of their own image or is their image and likeness and “future” literally going to be determined by the heirs of their future.

Our Classroom Discussion/ Debate This week
This week, at the end of class, we're going to be talking about the Humanity of Avatars.  Truly is someone going to have to be hired to “live” for another and approve their every move in order to make sure than at avatar behaves in a way true to their original embodiment?

What are the implications of such things for both the famous, the infamous, and the anonymous like pretty much the rest of us?

You can bet this is going to be an issue discussed in this year's flat classroom project as we discuss this whole idea of  “life after death” in the form of the avatars and likeness that we either leave behind or are created after we die.  Is this the birth of a whole new right — a death right perhaps that when we die – we take ourselves with us?

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