May 1, 2024 3 min read

FKA Twigs and Warner boss tell Senators about the urgent need for a US-wide law to regulate deepfakes

Proposals to introduce a new US-wide law to allow people to stop the unofficial use of AI to replicate their voice and likeness were discussed in Congress yesterday, with FKA Twigs and Warner Music boss Robert Kyncl among those providing their perspectives

FKA Twigs and Warner boss tell Senators about the urgent need for a US-wide law to regulate deepfakes
Photo credit: Shannon Finney, Getty Images for RIAA

Urgency was a common theme as US Senators yesterday discussed proposed new laws that would allow people to control the use of their voice and likeness in the context of AI, vocal clones and deepfakes. 

Representatives from the entertainment industry provided their perspectives, with Warner Music boss Robert Kyncl telling Senators that “the truth is, everyone is vulnerable” as generative AI technologies rapidly evolve. Giving an artist viewpoint, FKA Twigs admitted that the potential use of AI tools to replicate her voice or likeness “leaves me very vulnerable”. 

“The fact that somebody could take my voice, change lyrics, change messaging... it really leaves me very vulnerable”, she explained. “If legislation isn't put in place to protect artists, not only will we let down artists who really care about what we do - that have spent a long time developing themselves - but it would also mean that fans wouldn't be able to trust people that they've spent so many years investing in”. 

Although copyright law can help to an extent if artists want to stop the unofficial use of their voice or likeness, that is only the case where they own the copyright in audio and video in which they appear. Therefore, probably more relevant in this domain are publicity or personality rights. However, in the US, these rights sit at a state level, and therefore work differently around the country. 

A new US-wide publicity right has been proposed in the Senate via a draft law called the No Fakes Act. With entertainment industry reps stressing the urgent need to get legal clarity regarding the rights of artists to protect their voice and likeness, one of the Senators sponsoring the proposals, Chris Coons, said yesterday that the legislation could be formally introduced into Congress as soon as next month. 

As the proposals are formally considered in Congress, there will be First Amendment free speech concerns to address. And the entertainment industry itself will be raising some of those concerns, given there are people and companies in the music and movie industries that will be looking to utilise the new AI tools that are being regulated. 

According to Law360, Ben Sheffner from the Motion Picture Association was among those to raise that issue yesterday. “Legislating in this area necessarily involves doing something that the First Amendment sharply limits: Regulating the content of speech”, he said. “It will take very careful drafting to accomplish the bill's goals without inadvertently chilling or even prohibiting legitimate, constitutionally protected uses of technology to enhance storytelling”. 

However, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland from performer union SAG-AFTRA noted that preventing the unapproved use of a person’s voice or likeness is actually defending the First Amendment rights of that person. 

“I am concerned that we are only looking at one side of the First Amendment consideration here”, he said. “The other side is the right that each of us has to our own freedom of speech, to be able to communicate our ideas, to associate ourselves with ideas that we want to so and not be associated with ideas we disagree with. That is being really trampled on by this unfettered ability of people without a federal right”. 

FKA Twigs also highlighted the fundamental difference between a studio casting an actor to play her in a movie versus using AI so that it looks like she herself is in the film. 

“If you're able to use an artist’s voice and likeness without consent about their life story”, she said, “you're giving the impression that it’s the equivalent of an autobiography, rather a biography … and that's a confusion”. 

If a filmmaker wants to add extra drama to a biopic, but it’s an actor playing the role of the film’s subject, then, she added, “we know to take it with a pinch of salt”. Whereas if AI is used to make it look like the subject of the film is playing the role, then the divide between fact and fiction is blurred, and “that's what makes me really nervous, uncomfortable and vulnerable”.

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