ByRicky Derisz, writer at
Staff Writer at MP. "Holy cow, Rick! I didn't know hanging out with you was making me smarter!" Twitter: @RDerisz.
Ricky Derisz

The influence of CGI within the film industry has been increasing on an almost day-by-day basis for decades, yet the release of Rogue One was, in many ways, a tipping point. As well as using special effects to flawlessly link Gareth Edwards's spinoff to A New Hope, the inclusion of a computer-generated Grand Moff Tarkin sparked a impassioned debate on the ethics of including the character years after Peter Cushing's death.

Not long after the film's release, the death of Carrie Fisher stoked the already ablaze debate, with suggestions that the actress may appear in future instalment of the main saga in digital form. Although that has now been ruled out as an option by , there may be repercussions for the wider film industry in the near future.

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How The Law Is Adapting To The Technology

Now CGI has opened the door to actors becoming borderline immortal on the screen, the legal aspect needs to play catch up. According to an article by The Hollywood Reporter, celebrities will now have to consider "legacy planning," which, separate from estate planning, is the small print and legal aspect of how the actor's public persona can be used following death.

A digital Carrie Fisher in 'Rogue One' [Credit: Disney]
A digital Carrie Fisher in 'Rogue One' [Credit: Disney]

As the law catches up with such advances in technology, there could be some grim-yet-necessary amendments to the standard form of contract actors agree to when working in the industry. Any production that ignores those contracts, made from the so-called "legacy planning" an actor makes, could be in breach of trademark infringement or invasion of the rights to publicity. Attorney Mark Mizrahi told The Hollywood Reporter:

"CGI might make its way into the typical contract that actors make with studios. Especially if you're in a weak position — you might sign it away."

Avoiding Legal Complexities

In some respects, late actor Robin Williams was ahead of the game. Before his death, he protected his rights for 25 years by granting all aspects of his public persona to the Windfall Foundation, a charitable organization that restricts the exploitation of his image — including the digital inclusion into films.

Carrie Fisher in 'The Force Awakens' [Credit: Disney]
Carrie Fisher in 'The Force Awakens' [Credit: Disney]

However, these latest changes will be slightly different and won't require a certain workaround to protect actors' rights. As the use of CGI increases, so too do the legal complexities of essentially bringing actors to life following death. To avoid such situations (and to prevent next of kin being responsible for the decision), contractual agreements may be signed in advance.

There's no doubt the times are changing. was a huge indication of how the use of CGI can throw up some difficult moral conundrums and, in a multi-billion dollar industry, such instances will no doubt rise again. Morals are one thing, but the law, too, looks set to adapt with it.

[Credit: Disney]
[Credit: Disney]

What do you think about the use of CGI following an actor's death?

(Source: The Hollywood Reporter)


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