Legal experts warn that Tennessee’s new AI law is too broad.

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A new law in Tennessee aimed at protecting artists from AI-powered voice impersonation has drawn widespread praise from the music industry, but some legal experts fear such laws could be a ” “Overreaction” may occur, which may have unintended consequences.

Less than a year after a fake Drake song created using new artificial intelligence tools took the music world by storm, Tennessee lawmakers last month passed the first legislation in the country aimed at exactly that. This scenario had to be prevented. Authorization The ELVIS Act (Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security) does this by expanding state protections against the unauthorized use of a person’s likeness, known as rights of publicity.

The passage of the new law was applauded in the music business. Mitch Glazier of the Recording Industry Association of America called it an “incredible result”. Harvey Mason Jr. of the Recording Academy called it a “huge success”. David Israel of the National Music Publishers Association called it “an important step”. Any musical artist who has used their voice without permission shares these sentiments.

But legal experts are more divided. Jennifer Rothman, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the nation’s top experts on publicity rights, sounded the alarm at a panel discussion in Nashville last week, warning that Tennessee’s new law isn’t necessary. was and was brought in “urgently.” Law

“We don’t want overreactions to lead to the passage of laws that make things worse, which is what’s happening right now,” Rothman told his fellow panel members and the audience. “There are a number of important concerns raised in the ELVIS Act, particularly with the broad scope of liability and restrictions on speech.”

In an effort to combat AI voice cloning, the ELVIS Act makes several important changes to the law. Most directly, it expands the state’s existing publicity rights protections to expressly include one’s voice as part of their likeness. But the new law also expands the law in ways that have received little attention, including adding a broader definition of who can be sued and for whom.

According to Vanderbilt University law professor Joseph Fishman, who has closely followed the legislation, the broader wording “increases innocent behavior that no one seriously thinks is a problem.” Needs to be fixed” – possibly a tribute, interpolation, or even just sharing a photo that a celebrity didn’t give permission for.

“The range of actions is very broad,” explains Fishman. Billboard. “All the press surrounding this law has focused on deepfakes and digital copies — and those will be covered — but the law as written goes much further.”

Here’s why: Historically, publicity rights in the U.S. have mostly been limited to commercial contexts — such as ads that use a celebrity’s likeness to show that they’re endorsing a product. have been. Singer Bette Midler once famously spoke of Ford Motor Co. was sued over a series of commercials that featured the voices of a Midler impersonator.

The new law effectively gets rid of this trade limitation. Under the ELVIS Act, anyone who knowingly “makes available” someone’s likeness without permission could face prosecution. It also broadly defines protected voices as any voice that is “readily identifiable and attributable to a particular individual”.

These are big changes if you’re a musical artist trying to sue someone over a song that’s using a fake version of your voice, because the old concept of rights of publicity doesn’t apply in this scenario. . But Fishman says they have a serious possibility of more collateral damage than their intended target.

“There’s nothing that limits it to AI outputs, nothing that limits it to fraudulent use,” Fishman said. “A lead singer in an Elvis tribute band who sings as convincingly as King certainly deserves praise. So do Elvis impersonators.”

In an “even more extreme” hypothesis, Fishman imagined an “uncomfortable” image of Elvis that he knew the Presley estate didn’t like. “The law seems to be that if I send that photo to a friend, I’m liable. After all, I’m transferring his likeness, knowing that the rightholder hasn’t given permission to use it. Stop and go.” Think about that for a moment.”

The ELVIS Act contains exemptions intended to protect free speech, including those that allow the lawful use of someone’s likeness in news coverage, criticism, scholarship, parody and other “fair use” contexts. . It also expressly allows for “audiovisual works” that “represent the person as an individual” — a provision intended to prevent Hollywood from making biopics and other films about real people without being sued in Tennessee. Allow to create.

But ambiguously, the statute says that this exemption applies only “to the extent that such use is protected by the First Amendment.” According to Rothman, that wording means that the exemption essentially “doesn’t exist” unless a court decides that a particular alleged activity is a form of protected free speech, a costly extra step that most of them have to take. It will benefit people who want to live in it. Court “This particular statute creates great work for lawyers,” Rothman said. “So much work for lawyers.”

Those lawyers are going to file real lawsuits against real people — some of them terrible, voice-cloning bad actors that the music industry wants to crack down on, but some of them possibly just regular people. What they are doing is legal

“The law can lead to absolutely a lot of lawsuits,” Fishman says. How the decay is being done or because they see an opportunity for an additional series of licenses.”

Although it only applies to Tennessee, the ELVIS Act’s significance is heightened because it is likely the first of many legislative efforts aimed at addressing AI impersonation. At least five other states are currently considering amending their right-of-publicity laws to address the growing problem, and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are also considering federal legislation that would be the first of its kind nationally. Similarities will form the law.

At last week’s roundtable, Rothman said those efforts were misguided. The laws already on the books — including federal trademark law, existing publicity rights laws, and numerous other statutes and torts — already provide ways to prevent voice cloning and deepfakes, he said. And he warned that the proposed federal bills created even more serious problems, such as allowing someone to sign away their matching rights forever.

For other legal experts critical of the ELVIS Act, including Harvard University law professor Rebecca Tushnet, the hope is that any subsequent legislation, whether at the state or federal level, will be more directly AI-fueled. May correspond to true deception. to address.

“Any new laws need to be very targeted at specific harms,” ​​says Tushnet, who has written extensively on intellectual property and free speech. “Right now, this law and other proposals are dramatically overbroad, and threaten legitimate creative practices.”

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