Tennessee governor Bill Lee has announced a new state bill to further protect the state’s “best in class artists and songwriters” from AI deepfakes.
While the state already has laws to protect Tennesseans against the exploitation of their name, image and likeness without their consent, this new law, called the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security Act (ELVIS Act), is an update to the existing law to specifically address the challenges posed by new generative AI tools. The ELVIS Act also introduces protection for voices.
The announcement arrives just hours after a bipartisan group of U.S. House lawmakers revealed the No Artificial Intelligence Fake Replicas And Unauthorized Duplications Act of 2023 (No AI FRAUD Act), which aims to establish a framework for protecting one’s voice and likeness on a federal level and lays out First Amendment protections. It is said to be a complement to the Senate’s Nurture Originals, Foster Art, and Keep Entertainment Safe Act (NO FAKES Act), a draft bill that was introduced last October.
An artist’s voice, image or likeness may be covered by “right of publicity” laws that protect them from commercial exploitation without authorization, but this is a right that varies state by state. The ELVIS Act aims to provide Tennessee-based talent with much clearer protection for their voices in particular at the state level, and the No AI FRAUD Act hopes to establish a harmonized baseline of protection on the federal level. (If one lives in a state with an even stronger right of publicity law than the No AI FRAUD Act, that state protection is still viable and may be easier to address in court.)
The subject of AI voice cloning has been a controversial topic in the music business in the past year. In some cases, it presents novel creative opportunities — including its use for pitch records, lyric translations, estate marketing and fan engagement — but it also poses serious threats. If an artist’s voice is cloned by AI without their permission or knowledge, it can confuse, offend, mislead or even scam fans.
“From Beale Street to Broadway, to Bristol and beyond, Tennessee is known for our rich artistic heritage that tells the story of our great state,” says Gov. Lee in a statement. “As the technology landscape evolves with artificial intelligence, we’re proud to lead the nation in proposing legal protection for our best-in-class artists and songwriters.”
“As AI technology continues to develop, today marks an important step towards groundbreaking state-level AI legislation,” added Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. “This bipartisan, bicameral bill will protect Tennessee’s creative community against AI deepfakes and voice cloning and will serve as the standard for other states to follow. The Academy appreciates Governor Lee and bipartisan members of the Tennessee legislature for leading the way — we’re eager to collaborate with lawmakers to move this bill forward.”
“The emergence of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) resulted in fake recordings that are not authorized by the artist and is wrong, period,” said a representative from Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). “The Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) applauds Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Senate Leader Jack Johnson and House Leader William Lamberth for introducing legislation that adds the word “voice” to the existing law — making it crystal clear that unauthorized AI-generated fake recordings are subject to legal action in the State of Tennessee. This is an important step in what will be an ongoing challenge to regulate generative AI music creations.”
“I commend Governor Lee of Tennessee for this forward-thinking legislation,” said A2IM president/CEO Dr. Richard James Burgess. “Protecting the rights to an individual’s name, voice, and likeness in the digital era is not just about respecting personal identity but also about safeguarding the integrity of artistic expression. This act is a significant step towards balancing innovation with the rightful interests of creators and performers. It acknowledges the evolving landscape of technology and media, setting a precedent for responsible and ethical use of personal attributes, in the music industry.”
“The Artist Rights Alliance is grateful to Gov. Lee, State Senator Jack Johnson and Rep. William Lamberth for launching this effort to prevent an artist’s voice and likeness from being exploited without permission,” said Jen Jacobsen, executive director of the Artist Rights Alliance. “Recording artists and performers put their very selves into their art. Scraping or copying their work to replicate or clone a musician’s voice or image violates the most fundamental aspects of creative identity and artistic integrity. This important bill will help ensure that creators and their livelihoods are respected and protected in the age of AI.”
“AI deepfakes and voice cloning threaten the integrity of all music,” added David Israelite, president/CEO of the National Music Publishers’ Association. “It makes sense that Tennessee state would pioneer these important policies which will bolster and protect the entire industry. Music creators face enough forces working to devalue their work – technology that steals their voice and likeness should not be one of them.”
“Responsible innovation has expanded the talents of creators — artists, songwriters, producers, engineers, and visual performers, among others — for decades, but use of generative AI that exploits an individual’s most personal attributes without consent is detrimental to our humanity and culture,” said Mitch Glazier, chairman/CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). “We applaud Governor Bill Lee, State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson and House Majority Leader William Lamberth’s foresight in launching this groundbreaking effort to defend creators’ most essential rights from AI deepfakes, unauthorized digital replicas and clones. The ELVIS Act reaffirms the State of Tennessee’s commitment to creators and complements Senator Blackburn’s bipartisan work to advance strong legislation protecting creators’ voices and images at the federal level.”
“Evolving laws to keep pace with technology is essential to protecting the creative community,” said Michael Huppe, president/CEO of SoundExchange. “As we embrace the enormous potential of artificial intelligence, Tennessee is working to ensure that music and those who make it are protected under the law from exploitation without consent, credit, and compensation. We applaud the cradle of country music and the birthplace of rock n’ roll for leading the way.”
According to a press release from the state of Tennessee, the ELVIS Act is also supported by Academy of Country Music, American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), The Americana Music Association, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), Church Music Publishers Association (CMPA), Christian Music Trade Association, Folk Alliance International, Global Music Rights, Gospel Music Association, The Living Legends Foundation, Music Artists Coalition, Nashville Musicians Association, National Music Publishers’ Association, Rhythm & Blues Foundation, Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC), Songwriters of North America (SONA) and Tennessee Entertainment Commission.