Tennessee bans using AI to impersonate an artist's voice or likeness

From the din of a Nashville honky tonk on March 21st, Gov. Bill Lee signed The Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security Act, or ELVIS, for short. The bill prohibits the use of AI to mimic an artist's voice or likeness without their permission.

The music industry's been all shook up with the looming threat of AI-generated artist impersonations, but ELVIS is here to help. Tennessee knows the value of musicians, as Memphis and Nashville are cities synonymous with country, blues and rap. It's wise for the state to try to protect its cultural figures in some form. This law in particular isn't exactly foolproof, and how and when they'll enforce it exactly is difficult to say.

Right of publicity protections vary state-to-state in the United States, leading to a patchwork of laws that make enforcing one's ownership over one's name, likeness and voice more complicated. There is an even greater variation among right of publicity laws postmortem. As AI impersonation concerns have grown more prevalent over the last year, there has been a greater push by the music business to gain a federal right of publicity.

The ELVIS Act replaces the Personal Rights Protection Act of 1984, which was passed, in part, to extend Elvis Presley's publicity rights after he passed away. (At the time, Tennessee did not recognize a postmortem right of publicity). Along with explicitly including a person's voice as a protected right for the first time, the ELVIS Act also broadens which uses of one's name, image, photograph and voice are barred.

Kristin Robinson, Billboard

We've already seen a wave of voice-cloned music hit the scene. There was that fake Drake song, fabricated entirely with AI. Grimes has encouraged fans to make AI-generated chart-topping hits with her voice (and for fans to split the profits with her). There's countless AI-created "covers" on Youtube, which are usually pretty goofy.

While most of the music business is aligned on creating a federal right of publicity, David Israelite, president/CEO of the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA), warned in a speech delivered at an Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP) meeting in February that "while we are 100% supportive of the record labels' priority to get a federal right of publicity…it does not have a good chance. Within the copyright community, we don't even agree on [it]. Guess who doesn't want a federal right of publicity? Film and TV. Guess who's bigger than the music industry? Film and TV."

Kristin Robinson, Billboard

Will this law mitigate the unregulated use of voice and likeness without permission? Maybe.

Previously: YouTube's celebrity deepfake scam ads are getting more convincing