Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Problem With Vampires: How estate law and technology are about to impact the entertainment industry.

So Carrie Fisher died.  (oh, IRL spoiler alert).  People are scratching their heads saying "oh but she was just 60 and people live way longer than that now" which is true, but there are two important factors that come into play in this case; #1 it was a heart attack on a flight from London to LA so the amount of immediate treatment that allows for people to survive heart attacks was most likely extremely limited, and #2, she did have pure cocaine for breakfast 20 years straight so that will probably take some miles off the ole' odometer in the long run.  

Anime-wise, this in and of itself isn't significant until we come to the fallout.  That being, posthumous use of any and all of her images as an actor, whether it be pre-recorded material/archive-footage, or (more importantly) future use created digitally.  There is already a movement to tell Disney to please DON'T use a CGI Carrie Fisher in any more Star Wars movies they plan on making.  See where we're about to go with this?  But hey, as long as the check clears... right?

No... just, no.

Seiyuu Seimee, Sei it together, that's the way it should be.
Fans and casual consumers alike often voice distaste for the idea of using within a film, a CGI version of a deceased actor, or even a very much still living actor (Tron suck-fest anyone?), because of quality issues.  As humans, we are so attuned to looking at other human faces and gaining non-verbal implicit information from them that we can't shut that off. It just never looks right.  This is something that will most likely be surmounted as technology continues to become more capable, but as of now, it's not really there yet

But what about voices?  The voices!  Well, that's not as hard to pull off, and things like that go back pretty far.  Granted, examples like the Thief and the Cobbler have had their principal recording of their own specific lines while the actor was still alive and simply released posthumously, but with sound technology being what it is, as long as you have a large enough phonetic base to work from, you can make almost anything digitally without the actor present, or even aware, that it's being done.

The more astute among you will undoubtedly already be aware that this type of use has already happened to a living actor, one Crispin Glover, who very much did not appreciate it (see Crispin Glover vs Universal Pictures, via Hollywood Reporter).  So much so, that there is existing legal precedent regarding this type of thing and SAG terms covering use of likeness and pre-recorded media.  It is not enough to cover everything out there, but it can at least serve as the cornerstone for an entire body of new legal protections for actors and performers when it comes to synthesized use, posthumous or otherwise.

 Can ya hear me now bitch?

Allowed unless prohibited, or prohibited unless allowed? 
Notice how those two aren't exactly the same... (right now I am sure there's some contract law student going "HOLY FUCK OF COURSE THEY'RE NOT THE SAME YOU RETARDED RETARD!").  But for the rest of us normies, the latter is usually how entertainment and service contracts work, if it's not in there, it's not allowed until it is.  But this doesn't mean that synthesized voice performances aren't a potential reality.  Living actors might jump at the chance to receive 2 paychecks at once while they work on project A and project B simply uses the database to get most of the same work done at the exact same time.  Sure one check might be less than the other but getting both was never an option before so why the hell not?  This might actually be an enticing incentive to currently living voice actors.

Additionally, wills and estates will undoubtedly cover any such likeness or performance use for all posthumous purposes.  If actors actually like their kids, why not keep them on the gravy train by allowing for your voice to be continuously used for future productions, all while generating revenue at the same time?  Hate your kids, hell you can still earn money from your long dead voice and just have it go to some charity, or to pay someone to come around and kick your kids in the baby-maker once a month.  There will even be the oh so humble ones that simply allow for free use, making any future synthesized use, completely public domain.

This is all bad.  The reason is that this industry is competitive enough.  If all of a sudden as an actor, you're competing with dead people, then you might as well just start showing up to your auditions with a hatchet.  Think about it, they are never going to try to renegotiate halfway through a gig, miss a recording session because of a dentist appointment or traffic, age too much, clash over "creative differences," get pregnant, they are never going to get a cold, and they can be in 100 places at once. 

If vampires actually existed, upward mobility in society would be basically impossible.  They'd be around forever, hanging on to what they have and never letting it go, ensuring any future generations had no access to the same opportunities and resources they had (kind of like what the baby boomers are doing but times a million).   Thanks to the abilities of media technology, voice actors are going to be facing such a situation without the causal factors of the un-dead.  This means that 30+ years from now Megumi Hiyashibara might still be voicing new characters for whatever the hell kind of anime that they beam straight into your brain or however they're gonna do that, all the while the new talent sits on the sidelines, trying to get noticed online while their own work is stolen out from under them thanks to terms and conditions that give internet outlets ownership over "acoustic re-purpose rights" or whatever they are going to call it.

Welcome to the future.  It sucks here.

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