Tennessee Outlaws AI to Protect Its Country Music and More

The stage in front of the stage at Robert's Western World, a beloved honky-tonk on Nashville's Lower Broadway, was packed Thursday afternoon.

But even with country music superstar Luke Bryan and several other musicians in attendance, the center of attention was Gov. Bill Lee and his Elvis Act.

And Mr. Lee did not disappoint, signing into law the Likeness, Voice and Image Safety Act, a first-in-the-nation bill that aims to protect musicians from artificial intelligence in adding penalties for copying an artist's “voice” without permission. .

“There are certainly a lot of positive things about what AI is doing,” Mr. Lee told the crowd. But, he added, “when it falls into the hands of bad actors, it can destroy this industry.”

The use of AI technology – and its rapid improvement in impersonating public figures – has led several legislatures take steps to strengthen regulation on AI, particularly regarding election advertisements. The White House imposed late last year a radical decree pushing for more safeguards as Congress grapples with federal regulations.

But since this is Tennessee, the focus has unsurprisingly been on the detrimental consequences this could have on musicians in Nashville, Memphis and beyond. Mr. Lee's office said the music industry generates billions of dollars for the state and supports more than 61,000 jobs and more than 4,500 concert venues.

Several major musicians, recording industry groups and artist alliances have rallied behind the bill this year, warning of the dire consequences of AI.

“I've just gotten to the point where things are coming into my voice, into my phone, and I can't say it's not me,” Mr. Bryan said Thursday, adding that “I hope This will slow him down, slow him down.”

Chris Jansona country singer and songwriter who recounted his time working gigs on Lower Broadway, the downtown district where many of the city's honky-tonks are concentrated, told lawmakers and his supporters: “We are grateful that you guys are protecting, and that you ladies are protecting, our community, our community of artists.

Tennessee first stepped in to protect an artist's name, image and likeness with a law of 1984who came like the Presley Estate was fighting in court to control how the musical legend's name and likeness could be used commercially after his death. The version promulgated Thursday adds to this measure and will come into force on July 1.

The new law was passed unanimously by Parliament, a remarkable feat for a resentful body that spent weeks fighting – at one point, almost literally – on the slightest slight and the slightest change of policy.

The decision to hold a bill-signing session at a honky-tonk was a first for many people there, and it was an unusual scene for Mr. Lee, a more reserved public figure whose security detail accommodated visibly surprised some tourists outside the place.

Inside, fried bologna sandwiches — the cornerstone of Robert's $6 recession special — sizzled on the stove as Mr. Lee spoke. Republicans and Democrats alike sported “ELVIS Act” pins and applauded as Mr. Lee and leading Republicans received framed platinum records recognizing the signing of the law.

State Senator Jack Johnson, the majority leader, recalled his bachelor party celebration at Robert's house, while Mr. Lee described his fondness for incognito evenings with his wife to listen to music. music. And state Rep. Justin Jones, a leading Democratic foe of the Republican supermajority, later posted photos from the event. on Instagram with the note that it feels good to have a bill “that is not completely rubbish”.

The legislation's broad definitions, however, have prompted some lawyers to question whether it might inadvertently limit certain performances, particularly when an actor portrays a well-known entertainer. The law also makes any person liable for civil liability if an audio recording or reproduction of a person's image was knowingly published without authorization.

Under the law, voice is defined as sound present in a recording or other medium that is “readily identifiable and attributable to a particular person,” whether the recording contains a person's voice or a simulation.

These concerns led to some changes to the bill to create an exemption for such audiovisual representations, unless they give “the false impression that the work is an authentic recording.”

And given the broad definition of voice, one legal expert wondered: What would that mean for tribute bands or the men who perfected the Elvis impersonation?

“That's not the intent of the bill, but when a law is written in a way that allows people to cause trouble, mischief tends to follow,” said law professor Joseph Fishman at Vanderbilt University.

But Mr. Fishman stressed that even if the measure requires some additional adjustments in coming years, it remains “a well-intentioned bill that does a lot of good.”

Ben Sisario reports contributed.

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