Tennessee Sends a Hunk of Burnin’ Love to AI Deep Fakery

April 11, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Leave it the state that houses Music City. NPR reports, “Tennessee Becomes the First State to Protect Musicians and Other Artists Against AI.” Courts have demonstrated existing copyright laws are inadequate in the face of generative AI. This update to the state’s existing law is named the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security Act, or ELVIS Act for short. Clever. Reporter Rebecca Rosman writes:

“Tennessee made history on Thursday, becoming the first U.S. state to sign off on legislation to protect musicians from unauthorized artificial intelligence impersonation. ‘Tennessee is the music capital of the world, & we’re leading the nation with historic protections for TN artists & songwriters against emerging AI technology,’ Gov. Bill Lee announced on social media. While the old law protected an artist’s name, photograph or likeness, the new legislation includes AI-specific protections. Once the law takes effect on July 1, people will be prohibited from using AI to mimic an artist’s voice without permission.”

Prominent artists and music industry groups helped push the bill since it was introduced in January. Flanked by musicians and state representatives, Governor Bill Lee theatrically signed it into law on stage at the famous Robert’s Western World. But what now? In its write-up, “TN Gov. Lee Signs ELVIS Act Into Law in Honky-Tonk, Protects Musicians from AI Abuses,” The Tennessean briefly notes:

“The ELVIS Act adds artist’s voices to the state’s current Protection of Personal Rights law and can be criminally enforced by district attorneys as a Class A misdemeanor. Artists—and anyone else with exclusive licenses, like labels and distribution groups—can sue civilly for damages.”

While much of the music industry is located in and around Nashville, we imagine most AI mimicry does not take place within Tennessee. It is tricky to sue someone located elsewhere under state law. Perhaps this legislation’s primary value is as an example to lawmakers in other states and, ultimately, at the federal level. Will others be inspired to follow the Volunteer State’s example?

Cynthia Murrell, April 11, 2024


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