Tennessee just became the first state to protect musicians and other entertainers against AI – cialisdfr
Tennessee just became the first state to protect musicians and other entertainers against AI
Tennessee just became the first state to protect musicians and other entertainers against AI

The Tennessee State Capitol building, Nashville, Tennessee, April 11, 2023. File photo by Cheney Orr/REUTERS

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed legislation Thursday designed to protect songwriters, performers and other music industry professionals against the potential dangers of artificial intelligence.

The move makes Tennessee, long known as the birthplace of country music and a launching pad for musical legends, the first US state to introduce such measures. Supporters say the goal is to ensure AI tools can’t reproduce a performer’s voice without their consent. The bill enters into force on July 1.

“We employ more people in Tennessee in the music industry than any other state,” Lee told reporters shortly after the bill was signed. “Artists have intellectual property. They have gifts. They have a uniqueness that is theirs and theirs alone, certainly not artificial intelligence.”

The Voluntary State is only one of three states where name, photos and likeness are considered a property right, not a right of publicity. Under a newly signed statute — called the Likeness, Voice and Image Security Act, or “ELVIS Act” — vocal likeness will now be added to that list.

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The law also creates a new civil action where people can be held liable if they publish or perform an individual’s voice without permission, as well as use technology to create an artist’s name, photos, voice or image without proper permission.

Still, it remains to be seen how effective the legislation will be for artists who want to protect their art from being scraped and replicated by AI without their permission. Supporters like Lee acknowledged that despite widespread support from people in the music industry and unanimous approval from the Tennessee State House, the legislation has not been vetted. Amid ongoing clashes between the GOP supermajority and a handful of Democrats, this level of bipartisan agreement is a shocking anomaly.

Many Tennessee musicians say they don’t have the luxury of waiting for a perfect solution, pointing out that AI threats are already showing up on their cellphones and in their recording studios.

“There’s stuff coming into my phone and I can’t tell it’s not me,” said country star Luke Bryan. “It’s the real deal now, and hopefully this will limit it and slow it down.”

The Republican governor held the bill signing event in the heart of Nashville’s Lower Broadway in Robert’s crowded Western World. The beloved honky tonk is often overflowing with tourists eager to listen to traditional country music and eat a fried bologna sandwich.

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Lee joked that he and his wife, Maria, sometimes sneak into Robert’s for a date incognito, while other MPs swap stories of weekend walks to the iconic venue.

Naming the newly adopted Elvis Presley statue wasn’t just a nod to one of the state’s most iconic residents.

Presley’s death in 1977 sparked a contentious and lengthy legal battle over the unauthorized use of his name and likeness, as many argued that once a celebrity dies, their name and likeness become public domain.

However, in 1984, the Tennessee Legislature passed the Personal Rights Protection Act, which ensures that a person’s rights do not end with death and can be passed on to others. It states that “individual rights … constitute property rights and are freely assignable and licensable and do not expire upon the death of the person so protected.”

The move was largely seen as critical to protecting the Presley estate, but in the decades since, it has also been lauded as protecting the names, photos and likenesses of all of Tennessee’s public figures.

Now Tennessee will add a vocal semblance to those defenses.

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