Can AI Steal Your Song? Tennessee Says No. Here’s Why You Should Care.

Can AI Steal Your Song? Tennessee Says No. Here’s Why You Should Care.

In a groundbreaking move, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has introduced new legislation aimed at safeguarding songwriters, performers, and music industry professionals from the potential threats posed by artificial intelligence. Standing in the iconic RCA Studio A in Nashville, home to legends like Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson, Lee revealed the state’s commitment to becoming a pioneer in protecting artists’ voices.

Tennessee will be the first state in the country to protect artists’ voices with this legislation,” declared Lee, emphasizing the hope that it will serve as a blueprint for the nation. The urgency of the situation was underscored by top music industry leaders, songwriters, and lawmakers gathered at the historic studio, sounding the alarm about the risks associated with AI.

While the formal introduction of the bill is pending in the Tennessee Legislature, Lee outlined the core objective: preventing AI tools from replicating an artist’s voice without explicit consent. To achieve this, the legislation draws inspiration from the state’s own history, notably citing the Personal Rights Protection Act enacted in 1984 after the legal battles over Elvis Presley’s posthumous rights.

This legislation extended personality rights beyond an individual’s death, establishing them as property rights, transferrable and licensable. Tennessee took a pioneering step, distinct from the majority of states, by treating names, photographs, and likenesses as property rights, not just publicity rights. Only New York and California have similar protections, streamlining legal recourse for damages.

However, the proposed legislation goes a step further, addressing the vacuum in protections against vocal likeness. With AI’s pervasive threat across industries, artists are increasingly advocating for robust measures against new AI tools that can recreate imagery, music, video, and text without authorization.

Four-time Grammy-nominated songwriter Jamie Moore emphasized the ethical stance, stating, “If a machine is able to take something from someone’s lifetime and experience and re-create it without permission, or take someone’s voice and use it without permission, let’s just call it what it is: It’s wrong.”

The legislation also seeks to prevent AI tools from scraping an artist’s song or voice for unauthorized use, ensuring that they cannot generate content without explicit permission. Bart Herbison, executive director of the Nashville Songwriters Association International, highlighted the urgency, noting the rapid advancement of generative AI tools in producing sophisticated and emotional pieces.

As Tennessee takes the lead, similar AI-focused legislation is expected to emerge across the country. In California, proposals aim to establish safety, privacy, and nondiscrimination standards for generative-AI tools. At the federal level, the U.S. Copyright Office is considering reforms, and a bipartisan group of senators has introduced the No Artificial Intelligence Fake Replicas And Unauthorized Duplications Act of 2024, targeting AI deepfakes and unauthorized digital human impersonations. The push for comprehensive AI regulations is gaining momentum to protect the integrity of artistic expression and ensure fair compensation for creators.

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Emily Johnson

Meet Emily Johnson, a rising star in the world of news reporting. Armed with a Communications degree from Harvard University, Emily's writing is a perfect blend of creativity and fact-based journalism. She specializes in human-interest stories, bringing the personal touch that makes every story relatable. Whether it's heartwarming tales or societal issues, Emily is your guide to the trending news you won't want to miss.

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