The Memo: US proposes law to regulate AI copying voice and likeness

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US proposes law to regulate AI copying voice and likeness

Taiwo Oshodi – 15 January 2024

The use of AI in the entertainment industry is a rapidly growing trend, a window of opportunity, and concern for artists and media companies alike. As such, AI regulation has become a key space to watch for entertainment and media lawyers over the past few years, and it seems things are only going to accelerate in the space for 2024. Just ten days into the year, a bill for the regulation of use of likeness in AI (in particular, voice production) was introduced in the US Senate, drawing up a platform of protections for artists and their estates on the basis of their First Amendment rights.

Named the ‘No AI FRAUD Act’, the bill seeks to protect the rights of individuals’ likeness. While there are existing rights that remove people’s ability to profit from another’s likeness in the US (a similar assortment of laws including copyright, passing off and trademark function in the same way here in the UK) the bill hopes to stitch up existing gaps in protections between jurisdictions. If passed, the bill will have implications for those working in the industry worldwide, given the interconnectedness of the entertainment landscape today. The bill itself cites the infamous Heart on My Sleeve track which was unceremoniously struck from streaming platforms for using AI generated impersonations of Drake and The Weeknd, but only after generating at least eleven-million listens for its creators. It’s no surprise then, that industry leaders from the Recording Industry Association of America’s CEO to the CEO of Universal Music have already come out in support of the bill.

Because the bill essentially boils down to intellectual property rights, it ensures that the individual’s voice likeness will be protected throughout their life and for a period of ten years after their death. It also makes it clear that impersonating people via digital depiction or voice replica for advertisement or expressive work is essentially only valid by contract, and lays out proposed damages for a breach. Of course, the move won’t be transformational in terms of the way that AI is regulated, but it’s a first stepping stone that’s worth keeping your eye on. Concerns of this kind formed a central theme of the SAG-AFTRA strikes, so it’s no surprise that the bill has been supported by a number of unions. If you are interested in keeping up to date with matters like these or want a little peak into what media and entertainment lawyers do, please do check out our practice area guide where we cover all that and more – including which firms offer media seats for trainees.