I saw the image of Tupac performing at the Coachella festival. Is there any way a star can prevent their image from being used like this in the future?
— B.W., via the inbox
You speak of the 2-D resurrection of Pac, roaring "What the f--k is up, Coachella?" into the desert nearly 16 years after his supposed death. The late rapper's face and body were plastered onto a giant screen via so-called "holographic" projection—not quite, actually—but if stars hope to prevent more of these japes in the future, I have bad news for them:
Technically, there's nothing living stars can do to prevent being Tupac-ed. Really.
Yes, stars leave all kinds of instructions in their wills.
One actress, I've been told, has made some interesting arrangements: After her death, she doesn't want her image to be spliced in with any other person in any context, unless that person is her daughter. (The actress is still living; the kid is a private citizen.)
Those kinds of arrangements have a great deal of legal power. But they still have to be executed by somebody with a pulse—a trustee or primary beneficiary. And if that trustee decides to ignore the will, well, things can get snarly.
Let's say the trustee or beneficiary is a widow of the performer. That widow has the power to control how the star's image is used after death. Even if the performer stated in his will that he did not want his image exploited at Coachella, a widow could still enter into a contract to do just that, says Laura Zwicker, an attorney with Greenberg Glusker's wealth management and estate planning section.
"But then," she adds, "other heirs or beneficiaries or someone with some relation to the star could go to court to seek enforcement of the terms. They could say, ‘Look, this is a breach of the terms of the trust.'"
However, what if the dead person has a poor or greedy trustee and no other friends looking out for the dead person's last wishes? What if no one goes to court to enforce the terms of the dead person's will?
What if no one cares about the star's immortal soul?
Well, you just might see that immortal soul on a screen at Coachella.