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Estate Plan Can Guard against Misuse of Images

Star Wars highlights the value of protecting images posthumously.

A new Hollywood trend has developed of using estate planning to protect the use of images after an actor's death, according to the Daily Mail in "Actors rush to protect their image from 'digital resurrection' after they have died following eerie Star Wars: Rogue One reanimation of Carrie Fisher."

Because the saga of Star Wars has been going on for decades, some of the characters are being recreated through CGI effects because those in early movies are still present in the newest films. That did not present any problems in the 2015 release The Force Awakens, since it is set many years after the original movie. Consequently, the same actors could reprise their original roles.

However, the 2016 release Rogue One is set just before the original Star Wars movie and has some of the same characters.

Peter Cushing, who played one of those characters in the original film, passed away decades ago. Carrie Fisher played another returning character. Although she has since passed away, she was alive at the time of filming.

The movie producers did not recast the roles, but instead used CGI effects to make it look like the original actors were playing the roles. There is speculation that the next Star Wars film to be released will also use Fisher's digital image, now that she has passed away.

Hollywood stars are changing their estate plans to give instructions about how their likenesses can be used posthumously, if at all. For example, some are leaving instructions that their images cannot be shown using alcohol or drugs.

Under California law, celebrity estates have the right to control the likenesses posthumously, but there are no default protections about how the images can be used. It is up to the estates, unless an estate plan instructs otherwise.

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