Tennessee Prohibits A.I. to Safeguard its Country Music and Beyond



Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee has signed the Ensuring Likeness, Voice and Image Security Act into law, making it the first of its kind in the nation aiming to protect musicians from artificial intelligence. The law includes penalties for replicating a performer’s voice without their permission. The legislation has raised some concerns among lawyers about potential limitations on certain performances, given its broad definitions of “voice” and liability for civil action if a person’s likeness is published without authorization.

Country Music Star Luke Bryan and Musicians Applaud New AI Protection Law in Nashville

At a crowded Nashville honky-tonk, Governor Bill Lee stole the limelight from superstar Luke Bryan and other musicians, signing into law the Ensuring Likeness, Voice and Image Security Act. The first of its kind, this legislation aims to protect musicians from AI exploitation, imposing penalties for unauthorized use of a performer’s ‘voice’.

“While AI has its merits, it can destroy the industry if misused,” Mr. Lee told the crowd. The rapid improvement of AI technology in impersonating public figures has resulted in several legislatures tightening AI regulations, particularly concerning election ads.

In Tennessee, the focus is on the potential impact on musicians, with the music industry generating billions of dollars for the state and supporting over 61,000 jobs and upwards of 4,500 venues. Musicians, recording industry groups and artists’ alliances strongly supported the bill, raising concerns about the negative impact of AI.

Chris Janson, a country singer, praised the law for protecting the artist community. This law builds upon a 1984 legislation that protected an artist’s brand after death. The updated legislation, unanimously passed, will be effective from July 1.

The bill signing was an unusual sight at a honky-tonk. Inside, attendees, both Republicans and Democrats, wore ‘ELVIS Act’ pins to celebrate the momentous occasion. The event was also documented on Instagram by State Representative Justin Jones.

Some legal experts have raised concerns about the law’s broad definitions, which could potentially limit certain performances, like actors portraying well-known artists. The law makes unauthorized publication of voice reproductions liable for civil action, with ‘voice’ defined as a sound identifiable to a particular individual, even if simulated.

These concerns led to the exemption of audiovisual representations giving ‘false impressions’ of being authentic recordings. However, the broad definition of voice raised questions about its implications for tribute bands and Elvis impersonators.

Professor Joseph Fishman of Vanderbilt University pointed out that while the law may require further refining, it is well-intentioned and does significant good.

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