Tennessee Becomes The First State In The Country To Protect Artists’ Voices From Unauthorized AI Deepfakes

Bill Lee Luke Bryan Chris Janson
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Trying to cut down on deepfakes.

Obviously AI is one of the biggest topics, not just in music, but in culture as a whole right now.

Since the rise of AI services like ChatGPT, there’s been fear that the new technology would eventually replace songwriters and result in music written by computers. (And let’s be honest, if you told me that a lot of music was written by AI already, I’d believe you).

But with the advancement of AI, a bigger concern has arisen as the technology can now create deepfake images and videos, as well as vocal clones of artists’ voices, to produce entirely new art using an artist’s voice and image.

Of course some of it’s all in good fun, like an AI-generated version of Patrick Star from Spongebob Squarepants singing Jamey Johnson’s “In Color.”

But in some cases, “soundalike” songs are being AI-generated and passed off as a real song from a famous artist.

And more recently, sexually explicit AI-generated images of Taylor Swift were created and began circulating on Twitter (or X), adding a new urgency for legislation to address the use of AI.

I think we can all see the problem here.

Well Tennessee just became the first state in the country to pass legislation aimed to address these unauthorized AI deepfakes.

The Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security Act (or the ELVIS Act for short – and for obvious reasons) adds protection for artists’ voices to the state’s current Protection of Personal Rights law, allowing for the prosecution of those who use AI to copy an artist’s voice without their permission.

Tennessee becomes the first state with legislation against unauthorized copying of an artist’s voice, and is one of only three states that offer protection for an artist’s name, image and likeness as a property right – and the ELVIS Act adds their voice to those protections.

In a signing ceremony for the bill held at Robert’s Western World this week, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee spoke of the importance of the legislation for the Volunteer State in particular:

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

And Luke Bryan, who was on hand for the signing of the bill, praised state lawmakers for taking action:

“I’ve just gotten to where stuff comes in of my voice on my phone, and I can’t tell it’s not me. It’s a real deal…

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 personally want to thank all of our legislators and people who made this bill happen. 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.” 

Chris Janson, who also spoke at the ceremony, echoed Luke’s concerns:

“I’m a songwriter first, I’ve always said that. I’m an artist second…

Do you know without songwriting, I can’t go tour. My kids don’t eat. People can’t come to shows and hear live music if we don’t put a stop to the fakeness. We came to a real city to make real music for real people.

The darkness in the AI world always comes to light with realness and reality. What do they say in this town? The best song always wins.”

The legislation was supported by a long list of those in the music industry, including The Academy of Country Music, The Americana Music Association, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and the RIAA – though critics worry that the legislation could infringe on the First Amendment of those who use AI.

In addition to new criminal penalties, the ELVIS Act also allows artists to take civil legal action against people who publish or perform an individual’s voice without permission, or use technology to produce an artist’s name, image, voice or likeness without the proper authorization.

Seems like a step in the right direction towards curbing a rapidly developing problem.

Lainey Wilson Addresses Congress On The Dangers Of AI

Last month, one of country music’s biggest stars spoke to Congress about the dangers of AI and the importance of passing that legislation.

Lainey Wilson appeared before a House Judiciary Subcommittee field hearing in Los Angeles titled Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property: Part II – Identity in the Age of AI.

Representing the Human Artistry Campaign, a coalition of artists and creators promoting the ethical use of AI, Lainey spoke about the experience artists face of having their voice taken from them by AI:

“I am a recording artist, a songwriter, an entertainer. I use my music and my voice to tell stories to connect to my fans, and to help them connect to each other.

My art is uniquely and literally me. My name, my likeness, my voice.

I do not have to tell you how much of a gut punch it is to have your name, your likeness, or your voice ripped from you and used in ways that you could never imagine or would never allow. It is wrong, plain and simple.”

Then she addressed the already-growing threat that AI poses to artists:

“Many creators have already seen their life’s work and their own voices and images thoughtlessly ingested into AI models without their permission. Our identities represent years of work to hone our craft and make a livelihood out of our passion.

Our voices and likenesses are indelible parts of us that have enabled us to showcase our talents and grow our audiences, not mere digital kibble for a machine to duplicate without consent.

AI tools are purposefully being made to take a lifetime of specific artists’ voices and likenesses in a split second.

Some creators are ok with AI platforms using their voices and likenesses, and some are not. The important thing is that it should be their choice, and not a choice that an AI company gets to make for them. AI generated music and video using an artist’s unique identity to perform in questionable settings, or to sing lyrics that they would never write or express, that does not truly reflect who they are, is unacceptable.

It is a personal violation that threatens a person’s dignity and can put at risk everything that they have worked so hard to accomplish.

An artist’s voice and likeness are their property, and should not take a backseat to economic interests of companies that have not invested in or partnered with the artist.”

And she also addressed concerns that proposed restrictions on AI would be violations of the right to free speech:

“I have heard that some interests have criticized it as preventing freedom of expression that uses the voices and the images of other people. I’m a big proponent of free speech, and I’m certainly no lawyer, but I do know that if you take away the ability of artists to express themselves, you are by definition limiting freedom of expression.”

She also gave some examples of other dangers that have arisen with AI:

“It’s not just artists who need protecting. The fans need it too.

It’s needed for high school girls that have experienced life-altering deep fake porn using their faces, for elderly citizens convinced to hand over their life savings by a vocal clone of their grandchild in trouble. AI increasingly affects every single one of us.”

The House of Representatives is currently considering several pieces of legislation to regulate the use of AI, including the No Artificial Intelligence Fake Replicas And Unauthorized Duplications (or the No AI FRAUD) Act, which was recently introduced by a bipartisan group and would empower creators to take action against those who create AI-generated replicas or likenesses without their consent.

You can check out Lainey’s entire testimony here:

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock