The push by the Screen Actor's Guild to strengthen actors' control over the use of their digital clones could as well end up strengthening personal privacy for the every day citizen.
That's because "it is still unresolved whether individuals own their personal information," said Marc Rotenberg, director of the cyberrights group Electronic Privacy Information Center. "The (SAG initiative) could help push lawmakers towards accepting personal ownership."
In an effort to combat unauthorized use of the likenesses and personas of actors, SAG has lobbied for stronger language to be included into a copyright treaty being drafted in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
On Wednesday, SAG President Richard Masur will appear on a panel of other Hollywood and high-tech industry execs to debate the merits of digital cloning technology at the Virtual Humans Conference in Los Angeles, Calif.
Thanks to the clones
Privacy advocates are welcoming Hollywood's help.
"The individual should have an ownership interest in their personal information," said Rotenberg. "(Digital clone laws) could have a big effect on the marketers who collect personal data. That enhances privacy."
For films including hits such as "Terminator 2" and "Titanic," digital clones played a major role. Software magicians can make a few people look like a thousand. Or they can transfer Fred Astaire from an old movie and make him sell modern-day vacuum cleaners. So it's natural, perhaps, that actors fear the 3-D data sets used to digitaly reproduce them in films could be pirated to put their image in less savory roles.
"Celebrities need to take back their identities," said Milano.
What's in a data set?
If Hollywood gets its way, celebrities won't be the only ones able to fight for their cyberrights.
"There is an analogy here of baseball players and baseball cards," said EPIC's Rotenberg. "The players owned their stats and pictures; actors own their data sets; and people should own their personal information."
The jump from data sets and statistics being owned by people to citizens owning their Social Security and phone numbers is not that large.
In the future, the similarity will become more apparent, said Beard, of St. John's University. "Private citizens could go into a studio to have a data set done," he said. "Whenever a director needs an extra, he could access the database of data sets and pay the owner for its use."
Beard thinks such a relationship could act as the model for direct marketers who use consumers' information.
Back to Part I -- Virtual actors: Cheaper, better, faster than humans?
Back to Part II -- Fighting faked photos.