The Commerce Journal

April 20, 2012

Tupac resurrection brings new concerns to life

By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — In case you’re you haven’t seen it, put down the newspaper for a second, or open a new window on your desktop, and search YouTube for Tupac’s performance at Coachella 2012 earlier this week.

You back? In case you didn’t have a chance to watch it, legendary hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur performed a couple of songs with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre at the annual music festival.

What’s so amazing about that? Well, Tupac has been dead since 1996.

What performed at Coachella was a 2D hologram that looked and sounded real, even interacting with the other performers in a natural way.

After rapping for a few minutes, Tupac’s hologram dissipated into a cloud of shimmering dust.

The jaw-dropping display of modern technology, which cost in the ballpark of $100,000 to $400,000 is not only fascinating: it raises a number of ethical issues that the entertainment industry will have to struggle with if and when this technology becomes cheaper and easier to produce.

First of all, the use of someone’s image and performances after their death is nothing new.

A recent advertisement for the NBA features long-passed basketball stars interacting with current players.

Tupac’s performance, however, was far more real and personal than previous ones. Since Tupac was killed more than a decade before this kind of performance was possible, there is no way the entertainers can be 100 percent positive about what he would feel about his image being used in such a way.

Would the hip-hop artist reject to his image being used commercially, even if it was done in reverence and by two of the industries heavy weights?

What about other dead artists performing via hologram in the future? Could we see a reunited Beatles, with a resurrected George Harrison and John Lennon on guitar?

What about a Nirvana reunion? Would using these images, if possible, be disrespectful to these artists memory? Is it an invasion of privacy?

It seems like a slippery path to go down. Yes, I was completely awed by “Tupac’s” performance, but I can’t help feeling that his privacy was violated and that the Coachella producers should have nixed the performance.

Not that I’m an artist, but I imagine that if someone used by image in this way, I would be pretty angry.

 Until individuals are able to express in their will how they want their image to be used after their death, I think that such performances should not be allowed.

There are numerous ways of honoring an individual’s memory and achievements.

This is not one of them.