What is the legal status of digital rights with social networking sites and other vendors as it relates to the dead?
The online service providers have strict privacy laws to comply with their user’s privacy, even after death. The service providers have wielded privacy laws to bar access to decedents’ accounts for executors and family members. For example, after the death of Lance Corporal Justin Ellsworth in Iraq during 2004, his father requested Yahoo to grant him access to his son’s email account but because of not having a valid password, Yahoo denied his father’s access to his account (Wilkens, 2011). The other reason could be that if an email is sent, then the name of recipient and the sender is mentioned in the mail and can consent to disclosure under the ECPA, so if the person is dead then how could he send Emails from his account. However in order of a Michigan probate court, Yahoo was forced to grant them access over their son's account but Yahoo strictly prohibited to continue the same in the future for any individual (Herold, 2005).
Each and ever online service provider mentions its terms and conditions in order to protect its user’s privacy and confidentiality. Moreover, any deviation in these privacy information could result in bringing them under the scrutiny of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Some of the law officials believe that just like other possessions, and as property would pass to the deceased executors, emails are also a copyrighted property (Smolensky, 2009). On the other hand some questioned on the copyrights of the receiver or sender on the other hand but the argument against that brought into notice that once the send button has been pressed, the ownership and copyrights have also shifted to the receiver. As per the U.S. Privacy Act, privacy rights are extinguished at death and subsequently, as per U.S. FOIA, the privacy interests of a decedent's survivors may be considered under Exemption 6 (Dimick, 2011).
Specifically as to the Tupac Shakur hologram, what intellectual property rights are involved with the hologram, and who owns them?
The Tupac Shakur died 15 years ago but in first Coachella Valley Music & Arts festival, that was held 3 years ago, Tupac was found performing. This happened because of a trick of light which is known as a hologram. The hologram created using an overhead projector that reflects down some kind of image over a tilted piece of glass on the stage floor. However since Tupac was found performing after his death, this led to bringing up of some issues as it was considered that in this course of action, the exploitation of intellectual property rights has been done (Ganz, 2012).
Since on the basis of the Right of Publicity issue, a deceased personality cannot be commercially exploited for his or her name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness and this is protected pursuant to Civil Code Section 3344.1. It was reported that Tupac's Estate granted a license permitting his "appearance" at the shows in exchange for a fee (Modabber, 2012).
However, as per Copyright Act nomenclature the creator of the hologram was concerned to be the "author" of that "work”. Now he would be entitled to to control the exclusive rights enumerated under the Copyright Act. If anyhow the hologram would have been created under a "work for hire" agreement whereby the creator is “employed” for creating the hologram, then the copyrights of the hologram would have belonged to the employer (Soofi, 2012). Moreover the photographers regardless of any rights Tupac's Estate were required to acquire a license from the copyright owner of the hologram.