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Should they have resurrected Bruce Lee to sell booze?

How ethical is it to appropriate someone's image after they die, in software? It's becoming increasingly doable, and it's starting to generate controversy.

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 1.38.55 PMKotaku reports on a video made by booze vendor Johnnie Walker, featuring Bruce Lee. They resurrected the martial arts star, who died in 1973, as a 3D CGI model. In the video, Bruce is selling booze, although subtly.

The ad sees him walking around a darkened building, talking in inspirational language about the need to be like water. Follow your instincts, he says. Be like water; fluid, shapeless, formless. Shoot for success. Scattered around the video are original shots of Lee.

The ad is technically superb. The studio responsible superimposed Lee's features onto the face of an actor who looks a lot like him.

But what would the actor think if he could see the ad today? Would he have approved of someone using his image to profit after his death when they were effectively making him do things that he had never done before? Especially given that Lee was said to be a teetotaler? Does the fact that his daughter approved the project matter? 

There are other instances of dead stars being bought back to life in CGI form for commercial gain. For example, Audrey Hepburn was bought back from the dead to flog chocolate. Would she be happy about that? Maybe. "Let's face it," she said once. "A nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me." The point is, she never had the choice.

In any case, more of this is coming. How long will it be before we see Bogart star opposite Scarlett Johansson? The question is, how legal is all this? And perhaps even more importantly, how respectful?



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Danny BradburyDanny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with 20 years' experience. He writes regularly for publications including the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Financial Post, and Backbone magazine. Danny also writes and directs documentaries.

Maurice CachoMaurice Cacho

Maurice Cacho is a Toronto-based journalist mixing his love for tech with a passion for news. He's also CP24's Web Journalist and appears daily on CP24 Breakfast and weekly on the channel's tech show, Webnation, discussing tech news and trends.