The Hollywood Reporter obtained months of correspondence between Digicon Media, who holds a copyright on "Virtual Marilyn" and plans to project her singing and dancing alongside a live ensemble of music stars, between the estate of Marilyn, which plans to take legal action should hologram Monroe take place.
"Virtual Marilyn" is said to use the same technology that was responsible for Hologram Tupan Shakur who was not really a hologram so much as a digital resurrection of the deceased artist. Because of intellectual property and rights to celebrity and identity, it can make a dead star's digital debut tricky to pull off. Paul Bost, an attorney over at Sheppard Mullin representing Monro's estate is contesting Digicon's legal right to Marilyn's image.
Digicon received a cease-and-desist letter in December from the estate that claimed that "Virtual Marilyn" infringed upon its intellectual property and demanded a stop to the use of any marks, names, logos and designs that were based upon the identity and persona of Marilyn Monroe. Digicon insisted that it has done something unprecedented, which is to copyright a human persona, and that the statue of limitations has passed on any possible legal objection. The digital persona is also said to be completely distinguishable from the woman who died in 1962 of an apparent drug overdose.
Here is Digicon's first letter in response to the Estate's legal warning: VM1
Bost, refuted the possibility that the statute of limitations had passed. Referencing Google videos of "virtual marilyn", he wrote that they appear to date from the mid 1990s, and if "Virtual Marilyn" had some life back then it was "limited and short lived">
He says there is "no evidence" that the Monroe estate was aware of the activity, and he tells a Digicon official, "You appear to want to resurrect Virtual Marilyn after 15+ years of non-use."
The January letter from Digicon to the estate's attorney continues, THR reports, "The Estate is now Judicially Stopped from claiming ANY Privacy, Publicity or related rights to name, image or likeness obtained through testamentary inheritance in New York."
In February, Bost responded and indicates that a lawsuit likely would be premised on alleged trademark violations for causing consumer confusion and implying an endorsement or or association with Marilyn Monroe.
"Ms. Monroe was famously known as a model and actress during her lifetime," he writes. "You are wholly re-creating Ms. Monroe to serve as a model and actress."
The below statement was issued to The Hollywood Report by the estate of Marilyn Monroe:
"The Estate of Marilyn Monroe is the sole and exclusive holder of Marilyn Monroe's personality and identity rights and rights in the MARILYN MONROE trademark, and the unauthorized use of Ms. Monroe's identity and persona, such as that contemplated by Digicon Media, violates and infringes the Estate's rights in derogation of several Federal and State laws.
New and emerging digital and holographic technologies present the Estate and Authentic Brands Group with a host of intriguing opportunities befitting an icon of Ms. Monroe's caliber.
To that end, the Estate and Authentic Brands Group look forward to teaming with best-in-class partners in these fields to bring Ms. Monroe's fans top-of-the-line, exciting entertainment experiences. The Estate is unfamiliar with Digicon Media's capabilities as a developer and producer of digital and holographic technology, and is unaware of any successful attempt by Digicon to organize any meaningful exploitation of the crudely animated character that it claims to be a representation of Ms. Monroe and which it allegedly created in the mid-1990s. The Estate and Authentic Brands believe that the technological advancements made since that decade allow talented developers to create superior virtual characters, akin to the virtual Marilyn Monroe character portrayed in Dior's popular ad campaign for its J'Adore perfume.
The Estate's cooperation is required if anyone intends to market and exploit Ms. Monroe's identity and persona through a "live" concert or otherwise, and Digicon has not secured any such cooperation from the Estate to date."