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The PunkLawyer Blog » Blog Archive You Let My Avatar Do What? - The PunkLawyer Blog

You Let My Avatar Do What?

I presented this weekend at the Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law Section of the Florida Bar Annual Retreat in Palm Beach on the legal issues involved in licensing for music video games, particularly licensing of artists’ images for the creation of avatars for these games. In addition to the rights to the music involved, the focus has shifted as of late to the right of publicity rights artists grant to allow their images to be used in these games, particularly after No Doubt filed suit against Activision over the band’s depiction in the game Band Hero. No Doubt alleges in their suit that the feature of the Band Hero game that allows players to unlock the band’s avatars to not only play non-No Doubt songs, but also sing as other genders, particularly the Rolling Stones song “Honky Tonk Woman.” The band alleges that after asking that the feature be shut off in the game, Activision responded that doing so would be too expensive. Activision also mentions in its answer that the unlocking feature is public knowledge and that the band’s management should have known of it when the band signed the contract for their inclusion in the game. As I prepared for this presentation, an ethical question occurred to me, particularly since Activision’s answer states that No Doubt “signed after extensive negotiations with their representatives…who collectively have decades of experience in the entertainment industry.” The question that has come to mind in monitoring this case and other situations like it is how much artists and their managers need to know about new technologies before they license their music and images for use in such technologies? I would be interested in your thoughts on the matter, especially among the lurking attorneys out there and artists or content owners who have licensed content for such uses? Comment, e-mail or DM me on Twitter about your experiences.

Speaking of new technologies, I am excited to announce a new addition to my practice: a virtual law office. What is a virtual law office, you ask? It is a secure online interface that allows you to request and receive legal services on the Internet, much like you can do with online banking.

The idea is to provide my existing and future clients with the convenience of being able to register, log on, fill out forms and contracts, along with other legal services, when it works for you, whether it’s after work or out on the road. In addition, you can handle billing and invoicing, as well as pay via check or credit card for the services received. To get started, log on to my site, click on the ‘New Client’ button, then register and ask a question for a free, personal and confidential consultation. After a conflict check, you will receive a quote for the services requested, and if you choose to accept the quote, you can begin to receive legal services through the virtual law office for Scelsi Entertainment and New Media Law. In addition to asking a question to request legal services online, you can also request to schedule a phone or in person consultation. The virtual law office allows me to provide not only typical legal services online, but also what are called unbundled legal services, where you can request to have a document prepared for a fixed fee instead of at an hourly rate. Compared to traditional legal services, unbundled legal services can be cost effective, especially for independent artists and companies. So if it’s something you’re interested in, visit the site, register and ask a question to get started. Also, if you have suggestions as to features you would like included on the virtual law office to help you in your endeavors, send me an e-mail.

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