For some experts, this transferability could lead to people losing control of their “personality” as firms take full ownership of their identity rather than just a licensed use for a particular purpose. These types of transferability are actually a request made by the studio lawyers in 1950, who wanted to regulate the films that the actors were in as well as the endorsements they gave. “One might (potentially) garner more money for such a total transfer, but the cost seems inconceivably great to the person and society,” Rothman says.
Students athletes can become risk managers and companies or the NCAA, as well as risk agents for their identity. This is in an effort to make a profit on any big-league successes. Rothman claims that actors and athletes as well as average citizens risk losing control of their names, likenesses and voice to creditors, spouses, record producers and managers, or even Facebook.
Many actors won’t be affected, simply because their identities won’t be valuable. But it is also true that celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Tom Cruise have bargaining power that others don’t: They can bullishly negotiate that the use of their image not extend beyond any particular show or film. Contracts that take wholesale rights could be a possibility for smaller actors. Johanna Gibson is an expert in intellectual property law at Queen Mary University of London. She says that there’s a risk that actors just beginning out could be vulnerable and sign away publicity rights to get work. Studios could exploit this power imbalance in order to both commercialize their characters and images, and to prevent libel depending upon how that commercialization is conducted.
It could lead to actors being forced out of work or signing contracts which would allow them to become deeply involved in content that they consider demeaning, without any legal recourse. Gibson claims that the risks are even higher in the context of a film franchise.
SAG-AFTRA disagrees. They say that rational minds will always have different opinions, even when they work towards the same goals. “While some prominent commentators have expressed fear that a transferable right of publicity could lead to involuntary transfers or forced commercialization, there is little basis to believe this fear would come to fruition,” says Van Lier. ”There are no instances, to our knowledge, of the right being involuntarily transferred during anyone’s lifetime or anyone being forced to exploit it. The most notable attempt involved OJ Simpson and the court expressly refused to transfer it to his victim’s family.”
Eventually, AIs trained on Bruce Willis’ likeness won’t need Bruce Willis at all. “If a company can train its AI algorithms to replicate the specific mannerisms, timing, tonality, etc. of a particular actor, it makes the AI-generated content more and more life-like,” says Van Lier. “This can have long-term implications.” In other words, actors—and everyone else—must learn how to Protect their digital rights or they might find themselves in a new role.