Tenn. Gov signs bill to protect musicians from AI

Luke Bryan and others from the music industry were on hand to see the ELVIS Act become law.
Country music star Luke Bryan gives a fist bump to Gov. Bill before Lee signed a bill Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. The legislation is designed to protect songwriters, performers and other music industry professionals against the potential dangers of artificial intelligence. The signing took place in Robert’s Western World, an historic honky tonk in downtown Nashville. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed a first-in-the-nation law to protect musicians and songwriters from having their voices replicated by artificial intelligence.

The Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security Act, also known as the ELVIS Act, amends an existing Tennessee law that protects people’s name and image from commercial exploitation.

Tennessee is a music and entertainment hub. Nashville is known as Music City.

“This industry has forged and created the identity of this state, the identity of this town,” Lee said Thursday at a bill signing ceremony held at Robert’s Western World, a honky-tonk in downtown Nashville. “Artificial intelligence with all of its good intent … when fallen into the hands of bad actors, it can destroy this industry, it can rob these individual artists.”

Lee signed the bill in the company of country music superstar Luke Bryan, other music industry insiders and state legislators. Lee quipped that it was the “coolest bill signing ever.”

“What an amazing … precedent to set for the state of Tennessee to get in front of this,” said Bryan, who described being fooled by digital replicas of his own voice.

The revised law creates civil liability for anyone who uses an algorithm, software or other technology to recreate a person’s photograph, voice or likeness without permission. Lee called it a “blueprint … for other states across the country to follow suit.”

House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R) sponsored the bill, which was passed unanimously. Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R) carried a companion measure.

Lamberth addressed the musicians in the room as he described why protections against AI-generated music are needed.

“It’s preserving your gift, it’s preserving the magic of what it is to have a soul, to just be able to sing,” Lamberth said.

The music industry in Tennessee contributes nearly $6 billion to the state’s GDP and supports more than 60,000 jobs and 4,500 venues, according to Lee’s office.

Passage of the ELVIS Act, which Lee first announced in January, comes as state legislators around the country are moving quickly to place guardrails on AI. Industry-specific bills have also been introduced elsewhere.

In California, legislation would protect actors from being cloned by AI. Similar legislation has been introduced in New York to protect fashion models.

Several states have already enacted laws to regulate election-related and pornographic deepfakes.

The ELVIS Act takes effect on July 1.