In late March, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed into law the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security Act of 2024—known as the “ELVIS Act”—making Tennessee the first state to address head-on potential misuses of artificial intelligence (AI) related to an individual’s voice. The law prohibits individuals from using AI to generate and distribute replicas of another’s voice or image without their prior consent.

Many prominent members of the music and entertainment community have identified Tennessee’s law as an important step forward for the protection of artists’ (and others’) voice and likeness. Specifically, right of publicity laws across the nation typically provide that individuals have a property right in the use of their name, photograph, and likeness. However, these laws generally do not address the use of one’s voice or generative AI exploiting another’s image, likeness, or voice to generate unauthorized impersonations or replicas. In the age of AI cloning and deep fakes, these unauthorized works have caused great concern among those in the entertainment and media industries. The ELVIS Act is “first-of-its-kind” legislation to directly address these concerns by expanding Tennessee’s existing protections against the unauthorized commercial use of one’s rights of publicity.

Replacing Tennessee’s Personal Rights Protection Act of 1984, the ELVIS Act adds “voice” to the list of protected property rights and includes AI-specific protections. This new legislation imposes civil liability on those who publish, perform, or make available to the public an individual’s voice or likeness without authorization. Specifically addressing generative AI, the ELVIS Act also imposes civil liability on those who distribute, transmit, or otherwise make available an algorithm, software, tool, or other technology, service, or device where the primary purpose is to produce an unauthorized reproduction of an individual’s photograph, voice, or likeness.

Appreciating First Amendment protections, the ELVIS Act continues to provide certain exemptions from liability, like those found in the 1984 Act, where the unauthorized use is (i) in connection with news, public affairs, or sports broadcast or account; (ii) for the purpose of comment, criticism, scholarship, satire, or parody; (iii) a representation of the person in an audiovisual work (provided it does not create a false impression that the work is an authentic recording of that individual’s participation); (iv) a fleeting or incidental use; or (v) advertisements regarding the above-listed uses.

There are similar federal right of publicity bills circulating, such as the NO FAKES Act, but none appear particularly close to passage. Without a federal law, individuals must rely on a patchwork of state laws, and Tennessee has taken the lead in expanding its right of publicity laws. The ELVIS Act goes into effect July 1, 2024. For more information or assistance, contact Katie Wright Morrone and Sara Talebian.