Tennessee Tries to Protect Country Music

No More AI Voice Deep Fakes

Sponsored by

Gov Bill Lee and Luke Bryan

Tennessee is the proud home of country music. The state boasts over 61,000 music-related jobs and over 4,000 venues for live music performances. That honestly shouldn’t be surprising, given that the state has both Nashville and Memphis inside its borders. Music is one of the most dependable revenue sources for the state. This past week, the governor kept it that way, signing a sweeping bill preventing AI from copying an artist’s voice and more. 

There has been a lot of talk about AI taking our jobs. On an intuitive level, we can all understand why that is a frightening prospect. This is especially scary for singers. Their job is to be themselves and produce music. Ultimately, it is their voice that makes them unique. With AI, you can copy their voice and have them sing almost anything. And sometimes, it's tough to know the difference between the authentic voice and the AI rendering. 

We saw that just last year when a person known as Ghostwriter decided to release music he wrote, but under the fake voices of Drake and The Weeknd. While that story ended with possible lawsuits, it almost guaranteed Ghostwriter a Grammy nomination. This trend has only continued, leaving artists at a loss. 

Tennessee has decided to take on AI with a new law.

The Ensuring Likeness, Voice, and Image Security Act (ELVIS Act) is a first-in-the-nation bill. It aims to curb the use of AI content that copies artists. Starting in July, you will no longer be permitted to make content that mimics an artist’s voice, likeness, or image. 

Violators of this law could face fines of up to $2,500 and 11 months in jail. The artist will also be able to sue for damages! Based on the governor’s attitude, they seem too serious about the threat to seek punishment. Add that to the list of arguments against making an AI Hozier sing a Lana Del Ray song. 

But like with most new legislation, some details are still murky, and people raise red flags. Instead of the usual “think of the children,” we are asked to think of the tribute bands and Elvis impersonators. Some lawyers have argued that the bill’s vagueness would hinder these acts. 

On the other hand, we have people who want the same protections for private citizens. We have seen a rise in AI-generated explicit images of private individuals. Shouldn’t their claim to their likeness be held up with the same scrutiny?

Much like with AI, time will determine how effective this all is. As it stands, it feels like there's no clear answer. 

Celebrities like Grimes have embraced AI renderings of their likeness. Just last year, Beatles fans were treated to one last song with the help of AI. Other artists and public figures are actively in lawsuits over how their likenesses and voices have been used against their will. As always, this feels like a Pandora's box situation. Where is the line, and just how far past that line will we go?

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