Tennessee becomes first US state with law protecting musicians from AI

Illustration photo of music notes on sheet music

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) - Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a bill into law on Thursday that aimed to protect artists including musicians from unauthorized use by artificial intelligence.

The legislation is called the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security (ELVIS) Act.


While the presence of AI in music-making can be traced back to the 1950s, recent groundbreaking advances in generative AI, with robots now making music as digital pop stars, have divided opinions in the industry. Many experts say AI raises legal and ethical concerns.

Made popular last year by the ChatGPT language system, generative AI is capable of creating content including original sounds, lyrics or entire songs on its own, but artists often use simpler AI to enhance their sound.


The Tennessee legislation updates Tennessee's personal rights protection law to include "protections for songwriters, performers, and music industry professionals' voice from the misuse of artificial intelligence," the governor's office said in a statement.

Tennessee's music industry supports more than 61,617 jobs across the state, contributes $5.8 billion to gross domestic product, and fills over 4,500 music venues, according to the governor's office.

Tennessee's preexisting law protected name, image, and likeness, but it did not specifically address new, personalized generative AI cloning models and services that enable human impersonation and allow users to make unauthorized fake works in the image and voice of others.


More broadly, the rise of AI has fed a host of other concerns as well, including the fear that it could be used to disrupt the democratic process, turbocharge fraud or lead to job loss. Europe is ahead of the U.S. on regulations around AI, with lawmakers there drafting rules.

Democratic U.S. President Joe Biden's administration is pressing lawmakers for AI regulation, but a polarized U.S. Congress, where Republicans control the House of Representatives and Democrats control the Senate, has made little headway in passing effective regulation.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Sandra Maler)