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Hologram Law: Electronic Resurrection for Biggie Smalls?

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on April 06, 2016 4:14 PM

If you missed seeing Biggie Smalls live, you may still get your chance with a hologram. The Notorious BIG's widow, singer Faith Evans, reportedly said recently that she is working on developing a hologram and is considering performing "live" with the electronic replica of her husband, according to CNN.

Biggie Smalls or the Notorious BIG, born Christopher Wallace, died in an unsolved shooting in 1997, but his memory and music live on. People may still pay to see him, even if only electronically, and he is but one of many stars whose images are being considered for contemporary touring. Let's look at the growing business of hologram entertainment and legal issues it raises.

Hologram Rights

Biggie Smalls' wife, Faith Evans, recently told the Dame Dash Radio Show, "We actually are in development with a hologram, but I don't necessarily know to what extent I'm gonna perform with it. But I want to debut it in the first video for the album and maybe use it a little bit performing live."

A representative for Hologram USA, which has produced holograms of rapper Tupac Shakur and singer Whitney Houston, among others, told reporters that the company "has been in talks with representatives of Biggie Smalls, but we're unable to announce plans at this time."

Hologram USA is reportedly one of two major players in the performing hologram game. The other is Pulse. Both companies buy and license the rights to a celebrity's image after death, in order to electronically resurrect greats who are gone.

Licensing Rights

Biggie's wife, Faith Evans, is not alone in considering reviving her performing relative for the benefit of the masses. In fact, Selena's estate announced a whole hologram tour last year, infuriating some fans who felt this was an abuse of the estate's rights.

But it was not, legally speaking, at least not for now. The law on holograms is not yet settled and is likely to develop as the electronic images gain popularity and the technology improves.

Attorney Michael Schuster spoke to Fortune about this area of law last year. He says that digital representation of celebrity images is complicated. The law protects a living celebrity's commercial use of their right of publicity nationally. But after death it is different from state to state -- for example, California now does recognize a post-mortem right of publicity, whereas in New York that right expires with a person's life.

Regardless, Biggie's wife should keep in mind the phrase her husband made so famous, "More money, more problems." It may be best to let the Notorious BIG rest in peace, however popular or profitable a hologram revival tour turns out.

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