ELVIS Act Passes to Shield Musicians' Vocal Identities from AI Counterfeits

ELVIS Act Passes to Shield Musicians' Vocal Identities from AI Counterfeits
Cover Image Source: Musicians Steve Jones (L) and Billy Idol perform onstage | Getty Images | Photo by Emma McIntyre

In a world where artificial intelligence is rapidly reshaping the landscape of music creation and consumption, the intersection of technology and creativity presents both promising opportunities and daunting challenges. Recent advancements have enabled AI software to generate music, mimic voices, and even resurrect deceased artists, blurring the lines between authenticity and manipulation. Amidst these developments, Tennessee has taken a groundbreaking step towards safeguarding musicians' vocal identities with the enactment of the ELVIS Act.

Image Source: The Weeknd performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show at Raymond James Stadium /Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Image Source: The Weeknd performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl LV | Photo by Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

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Signed into law on March 21, the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security Act, affectionately known as the ELVIS Act, represents a proactive response to the emerging threats posed by audio deepfakes and vocal clones. This landmark legislation expands upon existing protections under Tennessee's Protection of Personal Rights law, which safeguards individuals' "name, photograph, or likeness."

Governor Bill Lee, surrounded by local country stars at a Nashville honky-tonk, emphasized the significance of this legislation in preserving the integrity of artists' voices. "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," stated Lee, in a press release.

"As the technology landscape evolves with artificial intelligence, I thank the General Assembly for its partnership in creating legal protection for our best-in-class artists and songwriters."



 

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The ELVIS Act empowers musicians to take legal action against unauthorized use of their voices for commercial purposes, including advertising products or soliciting donations. However, the legislation includes exemptions for incidental usage and activities protected by fair use laws, such as commentary, criticism, satire, or parody.

This nuanced approach seeks to strike a balance between protecting artists' rights and preserving freedom of expression in creative endeavors.

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Taylor Swift performs onstage during the
Image Source: Taylor Swift performs onstage during the "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" | Getty Images | Photo by Hector Vivas

Country singer Luke Bryan, a vocal advocate for the ELVIS Act, praised the legislation, saying, "The leaders of this are showing artists who are moving here, following their dreams, that our state protects what we work so hard for, and I want to thank all of our legislators and people who made this bill happen," he said. "It’s hard to wrap your head around what is going on with AI, but I know the ELVIS Act will help protect our voices."

The need for such legislation has become increasingly apparent as the music industry grapples with the proliferation of AI-generated content. Instances of fake songs featuring AI-generated vocals from renowned artists like Nirvana and Amy Winehouse have raised concerns about the authenticity and integrity of musical works.

In one particular case in April 2023, a song titled "Heart On My Sleeve" featuring AI-generated vocals purportedly from Drake and The Weeknd amassed millions of streams before being removed from digital platforms by Universal Music Group.



 

The ELVIS Act represents a crucial step towards fostering a fair and sustainable ecosystem where creativity flourishes, and artists' voices are respected and protected. 

"Copyright is a concern, but it’s very much a second-tier concern over some of the bigger, more existential questions about economic displacement, upending business models, and deep fakes," said Meredith Rose, senior policy counsel for Public Knowledge.

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