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Style Cloning

Style Cloning

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Published by T M Copeland
Brief discussion of legal and operational implications of style cloning.
Brief discussion of legal and operational implications of style cloning.

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Published by: T M Copeland on Mar 03, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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There are a number of news reports chronicling the verbal odyssey of Roger Ebert, thewell known movie and cultural critic. Ebert, having lost his voice during treatment for cancer of the thyroid, had it electronically restored. At first, the voice he was given didnot sound like his old voice. A Scottish company, CereProc, through a process calledcloning, reconstructed Ebert's old voice, 'training' the electronic synthesizer using hoursof old radio shows and the audio from video recordings of Ebert's critical reviews andother interviews. CereProc went beyond capturing Ebert's distinct sound. They trained theelectronic device to incorporate the inflexion and general attitude of the man. In short,they captured his verbal style, a large part of what made his commentary valuable andmarketable.In today's Wired.com there is an article that North Carolina based Zenph SoundInnovations has developed the process by which the musical style of deceased (and, presumably, still living) artists can be replicated. Such replication can be applied to theold standards of former artists or to works they, in their lifetimes, never recorded or  preformed. The article postulates Jimi Hendrix covering a work of Lady Gaga's. I wouldlike to hear Jimi's take on the Halleluiah Chorus or, maybe, Janis Joplin's version of aVerdi aria.Such wishing and thinking aside, these new articles bring up an interesting point. Arestylings generally thought to be uniquely the property of a particular artist, whether musical stylings, verbal stylings, written stylings, whatever, private property?There are a lot of variations on this theme. When Coke and Pepsi used dead performers,John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, etc. in their commercials by superimposing clips from oldmovies and videos in the body of the commercials, royalties were paid to the estates of those artists or whoever held the rights to those old properties. However, in those cases,the images and the dialog were lifted from the intellectual property of somebody. Thosevarious somebodies had to be compensated and they had to give permission.What will stop a commercial from employing an electronically synthesized voice of distinctive and well known personality? Particularly, what will stop you if the voice issimilar to the point of being unmistakable but slightly different? How much variation will be required to make it legal, if, in fact, there is anything illegal about appropriating a styleof presentation? Is a style of presentation protected property in the first place? Indeed,how can you even define a given style well enough for it to have any legal meaning?Adding style replication or cloning to the array of synthetic tools available to film andvideo makers conjures the potential for entire feature films being made staring actors andactresses, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, you name it, long dead.This also begs an operational question facing new authors everyday. It is very difficultfor a new author to break into the public consciousness and find his or her audience. In part, this difficulty is a result of the comfort and attraction readers have to familiar writers. What will happen if movie audiences want to stick with Cary Grant's style? Doesthis mean we have seen our last new George Clooney? Will actors be forced to don the

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