Wilt Toikka Kraft LLP

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Granting musical artists the right to their unique voice as a novel property right, serving as a safeguard against unauthorized imitations commonly referred to as “soundalikes.”

Proposed bills, announced on January 10 at both the federal and state levels, aim to protect recording artists and the music industry from unauthorized “soundalike” vocals created using artificial intelligence (AI) technology. This development has sparked interest from DC IP Lawyers. The bills, named the “Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security (ELVIS) Act” in Tennessee and the “No Artificial Intelligence Fake Replicas and Unauthorized Duplications Act of 2024” or “No AI FRAUD Act” at the federal level, seek to create a property right in an individual’s voice to expand publicity rights.

From the rise of unauthorized AI-generated “soundalike” vocals, seen in the viral music recording “Heart on My Sleeve” featuring replica vocals of Drake and Weeknd, to concerns raised by artists like Bad Bunny about TikTok songs featuring unauthorized imitations, the music industry has witnessed controversies prompting the need for enhanced rights of publicity. State right of publicity laws currently vary, but the surge in AI-generated imitations has led to a push for a uniform federal right of publicity, inclusive of voice protection.

The ELVIS Act, introduced in Tennessee, aims to prevent the distribution of unauthorized AI-generated replica vocals. Notably, it would be the first legislation to protect an individual’s voice in addition to existing protections for image and likeness. Supported by industry organizations such as SAG-AFTRA, ASCAP, BMI, GMR, and SESAC, this state-level initiative is a significant step forward.

At the federal level, the No AI FRAUD Act, introduced by Rep. María Elvira Salazar and others, addresses abusive AI deepfakes, voice clones, and exploitative digital human impersonations. This bipartisan bill seeks to provide individuals with federally protected rights to control the use of their likeness and voice. The Act prohibits the creation and publication of AI-generated replicas without consent, and violators may face statutory or actual damages. While respecting First Amendment protections, the Act emphasizes the importance of safeguarding individuals against unauthorized use.

The support of major industry players, including Universal Music Group, SAG-AFTRA, and the Recording Industry Association of America, underscores the significance of these proposed bills. The ELVIS Act and the No AI FRAUD Act reflect policymakers’ responsiveness to concerns within the music industry, recognizing the need to empower artists against the unauthorized use of AI technology impacting their voices.

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