A company called Digicon Media, LLC has issued a press release, claiming that it has obtained a copyright registration for the “digital persona” of a “virtual Marilyn Monroe.” Digicon appears to be claiming that the registration broadly covers the exclusive right to a digital representation of Marilyn Monroe’s persona or performance.
It seems to me that Digicon is grossly overstating its rights (at least its rights under copyright law). Last time I checked, neither “digital actors” nor “digital personas” were classes of works protected by copyright. Indeed, the registration cited by Digicon is a VA registration, making it likely that the registration covers a particular digital animation as an audiovisual work. If so, the registered copyright (as opposed to any potential right of publicity issues) would not prevent others from creating their own digital animation featuring a virtual Marilyn Monroe, so long as the second animation was not substantially similar to Digicon’s animation (i.e., different clothing, movement, dialogue, etc.).
There are some other interesting points about the registration. First, the registration claimant is not Digicon, but rather is an individual by the name of Peter F. Paul. Mr. Paul is an interesting character in his own right, with a colorful personal background that includes jail time and several unsuccessful bids to wrest the rights to several Marvel Comics characters away from Marvel and Stan Lee. Also of interest, the registration record notes that Copyright Office correspondence is part of the record. I would imagine that the issues raised in that correspondence are very interesting, indeed!