According to, Tupac’s album and single sales saw a combined increase of 3,249 percent in the 12 days following his Coachella appearance. His posthumously released single “Hail Mary,” which was performed “live” for the first time ever at the music festival, was up 1,530 percent. Nielson Soundscan reported that his Greatest Hits album returned to the Billboard 200 for the first time since 2000. These numbers are impressive, but are they sustainable? We have now proven that legends never have to die, but does this devalue the very idea of a legend? Seeing Tupac, Freddie Mercury, or any other deceased musical legends perform a single surprise show is one thing, but would it have the same effect if the illusion were available repeatedly? What if a hologram version of Nirvana were available every night in Vegas, or if the Beatles did perform a once-a-year world tour? We tend to value things because they are rare and we know they won’t last forever. Oversaturation threatens to leave us bored and disinterested. Do we really want to spoil the integrity of the few icons that do exist or have passed? Or do we want to have our cake and eat it too?

Moore put it to me bluntly, “There is a time to play checkers and a time to play chess, and personally, I find this is a time for the latter.” Moore simply means that we tend to live in society during a time where we do things first and ask questions later; we live in the present without regard to the future. So how do we define the ethical line when it comes to digital resurrection?

We’ve created and used this technology without a proper thought to how it can ultimately affect the integrity of the very people we are representing with it. Is it ethically sound to puppeteer something that unequivocally represents a person who is unable to accept or reject the final product? Unfortunately, this happens all the time. We have been taking previously recorded tracks from deceased artists and remixing, releasing, and repackaging them for years. Eminem produced a posthumous album of Tupac’s, sewing together new slang words from previously recorded sound bites. He also created a track with Tupac rapping alongside his deceased nemesis, The Notorious B.I.G. How is this possible? Most of the original sources for these types of things do not belong to the artist and it does not necessarily mean the artist would have any more authority over its use if he or she were alive or dead. Why? If you record tracks under a contract with a record label, those recordings belong to the label. The same goes with visual content. If your live performance is recorded (with your permission), the rights to the video of that performance belong to the entity that made the recording. They are free to manipulate or grant the rights to anyone as they deem fit. Jeremy Lublin, singer for the New York based rock band the Romans, has no qualms with this, “For me, it is just another indication that the artist’s art or performance doesn’t really belong to the artist, it belongs to the world. Once something is created and out in the public, for better or for worse, people are free to use it, and manipulate it, how they see fit.” 

However, the difference again is that the Tupac hologram (save the actual imagery that his basic design was based on) was visually brand new. The creators of the Tupac hologram designed every move made on that Coachella stage and even a few words spoken to festival attendees. This is new territory.

Digital Domain’s Ulbrich admitted to the WSJ that “to create a completely synthetic human being is the most complicated thing that can be done.” In this process of creation how can we make sure to maintain the integrity of the person we are representing? And if you are an artist, what rights and claim to yourself do you have once you’ve died? If you don’t have legal claim to all of your visual or audio copyrights, can you at least claim rights to your personality? Entertainment lawyer, Robert J. Nathan explains, “The state of primary residence of the personality at the time of his or her death will generally be the determining factor as to whether or not that person’s likeness and voice are in the public domain or must be licensed from that person’s heirs prior to use.” He adds examples, “In some states (e.g., NY), personality rights do not survive beyond a person’s life, and cannot be inherited; in other states (e.g., CA), the heirs of the deceased inherit and control exploitation of personality rights, and may license that use or sue for unauthorized use.”

Having the power to control the personality and integrity of another human being, especially posthumously, is an agreed upon gray area and the moral navigation of waters in this realm is murky at best. “As a creative, I find that I wouldn’t want to [be] represented by something I had no part in, either alive or dead,” says another Los Angeles based producer, Chris Fudurich. “But with the estate of the deceased authorizing these things, it really comes across as a way to fill their coffers, which I feel is a moral gray area.”

Manager Kaminsky agrees that it’s an issue to keep “a very close eye on,” saying, “There’s definitely a line of respect that needs to be honored.”

When asked if he would like to play next to a hologram Freddie Mercury, Queen drummer Roger Taylor told Billboard, “I don’t think I want to. Were somebody [else] to use a hologram of Freddie, I would have no objection. It just doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t want to appear with a hologram of my dear friend. It’s the real one or no hologram for me.”

After inquiring if he would mind being made into a hologram after death, Romans singer, Lublin told me, “Playing makes me feel alive. I wouldn’t mind continuing playing when I’m dead. I would feel humbled and honored if someone would want to turn me into a hologram, assuming they had the right intentions.”

His statement agrees with Moore’s point that there is a distinction to be made. “Resurrecting Kurt Cobain for a high paying Pepsi commercial is somewhat different than Tupac’s mother agreeing to her son’s reunion with Snoop and Dre.” So, without any laws or digital DNRs (do not resuscitate) we are left with trusting those who will possibly survive and revive us. And in eras of constantly rising technological advances coupled with our history of testing boundaries, curiosity, and our mentality of “do first, ask questions later” that is a very scary world to be undead in indeed.

“It’s funny how most people love the dead; once you’re dead, you’re made for life.” – Jimi Hendrix.

Cincopa WordPress plugin