As uses for artificial intelligence continue to develop, so too do public concerns about their more nefarious applications. Since at least 2017, voices and images of celebrities have been manipulated in hyper-realistic videos, known as deepfakes. Deepfaking occurs when artificial intelligence is used to create deceptively realistic images, audio and video, resulting in what some people call “synthetic media” because of its artificial yet believable form. Convincing deepfakes have been spread around every corner of the Internet, including in political videos, comedy skits, and pornography.
To address some of the concerns regarding AI and deepfakes, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee recently announced the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security (ELVIS) Act. This act updates Tennessee’s existing right of publicity laws by responding to the evolving threats posed by AI, particularly with respect to the music industry. As Tennessee is a thriving hub for music, the ELVIS Act aims to expand traditional name, image, likeness (or “NIL”) protections to include one’s voice, directly targeting the unauthorized use of performers’ famous and valuable voices.
The right of publicity is a legal concept that protects an individual’s right to control and profit from the commercial use of their own name, image, likeness (or “NIL”) and other identifiable aspects of their persona. Rooted in the broader framework of privacy laws, the right to publicity grants individuals the exclusive right to determine how their identity is used for commercial purposes, such as in advertising, endorsements or merchandising. This legal right acknowledges the inherent value of a person’s public persona and seeks to prevent unauthorized exploitation for financial gain. It empowers individuals to manage their public image, maintain control over their personal brand, and safeguard against the unauthorized commercial exploitation of their identity.
In Tennessee, the right of publicity is codified in Tenn. Code Ann. § 47-25-1101 et seq. as the Personal Rights Protection Act of 1984. The act creates a property right in the use of an individual’s “name, photograph, or likeness.” The right of publicity is violated in Tennessee when that name, photograph, or likeness is used as “an item of commerce for purposes of advertising products, merchandise, goods, or services, or for purposes of fund raising, [or] solicitation of donations.”
While Tennessee’s existing law protects the right of publicity, it falls short in explicitly addressing the unauthorized use of AI for impersonation. The past definition of NIL did not encompass one’s voice, leaving a gap in protection from AI-generated clones and deepfakes.
The ELVIS Act addresses these concerns by prohibiting the unauthorized use of AI to replicate a performer’s voice. Protecting one’s voice in addition to traditional NIL rights directly addresses AI-driven threats to musicians. The act’s primary goal is to shield the voices of songwriters, performers, and music industry professionals from misuse and unauthorized manipulation by AI.
As of this blog’s published date, the ELVIS Act is set to be introduced in the upcoming Tennessee state legislative session. If approved, the act would not only be a trailblazer in protecting and preserving individual likenesses in Tennessee but may also serve as a model for other states looking to add one’s voice to their traditional NIL protections. The Act, once ratified by the full Tennessee legislature, will set a precedent for addressing the intersection of AI and the protection of personal rights, particularly in the performing arts industry.
Our team of experienced attorneys is here to guide you through the implications of the ELVIS Act and the changing landscape of AI in the music industry. Whether you’re a performer, songwriter, or industry professional, understanding your rights in the realm of deepfake technology is crucial. Take the next step in safeguarding your artistic identity – contact our team for advice and assistance today.
Contributions to this blog by Kara Manuud.