Estate Read Time: 4 min

Intellectual Property Rocks in a New Digital Era

How will your IP work for you in your retirement and beyond?

In 2023, the music industry witnessed a groundbreaking shift, as iconic bands like ABBA, KISS, and the Beatles embraced the digital frontier. These legendary acts showcased new digitally created content, with ABBA and KISS debuting live shows featuring their digital avatars. While this development opens up exciting possibilities for entertainment, it also raises questions about intellectual property (IP) ownership and its implications for ordinary people and their estates.

The Beatles’ so-called “final release” was a single called “Now and Then” based on a demo cassette created by John Lennon, who was tragically slain in 1980. While most of us won’t have a posthumous hit single, it’s not rare for deceased authors to have their unpublished—or even unfinished—novels see success in print and film. Famous examples include The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson and Dragon Bones by Michael Crichton. Retired athletes have played again (at least in video games), and aging or passed actors have appeared as their younger selves in films. Another scenario might be for those who hold a patent that didn’t go into mass production during their lifetime, only to become incredibly profitable later. Here’s the big takeaway: Your IP might be more valuable than you realize, so consider consulting a legal professional who can offer guidance.

With the advent of digital avatars, the concept of retirement for musicians has taken on a new meaning. KISS, known for their theatrical performances and larger-than-life personas, surprised the world with their transformation into a digital-only band. After their final live performance, KISS unveiled their digital avatars designed to continue performing concerts indefinitely. Utilizing motion capture technology, the rock icons created a “superhero version” of the band, ready to rock for eternity. The “new KISS era” promises never-ending concerts, with the digital avatars capable of performing simultaneously in multiple cities, ensuring that the band’s brand as entertainment endures long after its original members have departed.1

ABBA, another legendary band, has embraced the digital revolution with avatars. Collaborating with the same creative minds behind KISS’ digital transformation, ABBA’s avatars have captivated audiences with their live shows. As the popularity of digitally created content grows, it is conceivable that ABBA’s and KISS’ avatars may eventually compete for concert space, further blurring the line between reality and virtual performances. Artists once relied on their physical presence and performances to generate revenue. The advent of digital clones now introduces the possibility of perpetual income streams from virtual performances. Artists and creators may need to adapt their strategies to embrace this new reality, exploring avenues for licensing, merchandising, and virtual experiences.

The concept of an artist’s estate may undergo significant changes in the digital era. With the potential for avatars to continue generating revenue long after an artist’s passing, careful estate preparation becomes crucial. Artists and creators must consider how their IP and the resulting royalties are scheduled to be managed and protected, helping to structure their legacy so that the financial benefits it generates remain preserved for future generations. There are limitations; your legal strategy should have contingencies for unintentional patent or copyright infringement, both during your lifetime and beyond.

How might you consider the future of your creative work, patents, likeness, and other IP? Could these be important factors in your retirement strategy and beyond? While these advancements present exciting opportunities, they also require careful consideration of ownership, management, and estate strategy. You must also consider potential risks, including infringement on the IP of others. As this chapter of the digital revolution unfolds, individuals and industries must navigate this new landscape to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for creators and audiences alike.

1. Apnews.com, December 2, 2023

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG, LLC, is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright FMG Suite.

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