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When is it allowed to create and sell 3d models and 2d renders of existing dead people and celebrities?

I can imagine this is not a easy topic and is different depending on the jurisdiction. Here are some thoughts from me. Also which jurisdiction count? The place I live (Germany)? The countries I'm selling to? The country the original person lived in?

Another question is when does the 3d model or render look similar enough that copyright / trademark law applies? A different skin color, makeup or hair style is enough to make the 3d model unrecognizable to the person you took reference from.

What difference does it make if a person is dead or alive?

Does the format I'm selling make a difference? 3d model, comic, video game.

How does the date of death matter?

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    Re your introductory sentence: A JPEG or MP3 or even a TXT file are also just a file with a bunch of zeroes and ones that become visible only with a software that understands the format (and, for the literal visibility, suitable hardware such a screen or printer) – Hagen von Eitzen Oct 23 '20 at 15:12
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German law protects the Right of Personality, of which the Right of Publicity is a part. The Right of Publicity protects individuals from having their identity exploted for someone else's gain, without their permission.

Using an individual's likeness in the way you describe would violate this, including that of non-German citizens. Depending on what you used this image for, you would potentially face a civil suit.

Changing aspects so they're unrecognizable would likely depend on the specifics and intent would count. Honestly, if you're going to change them to be unrecognizable, why even bother- just create an original character.

This right lasts for 10 years after the individual's death- during this time it is controlled by the deceased's estate. After 10 years, you would be able to use them this way.

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