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After Fake Drake, New Federal Bill Would Ban AI-Generated Deepfake Vocals

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A bipartisan group of U.S. senators released draft legislation Thursday (Oct. 12) aimed at protecting musical artists and others from artificial intelligence-generated deepfakes and other replicas of their likeness, like this year’s infamous “Fake Drake” song.

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The draft bill – labelled the “Nurture Originals, Foster Art, and Keep Entertainment Safe Act, or NO FAKES Act — would create a federal right for artists, actors and others to sue those who create “digital replicas” of their image, voice, or visual likeness without permission.

In announcing the bill, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) specifically cited the April release of “Heart On My Sleeve,” an unauthorized song that featured AI-generated fake vocals from Drake and The Weeknd.

“Generative AI has opened doors to exciting new artistic possibilities, but it also presents unique challenges that make it easier than ever to use someone’s voice, image, or likeness without their consent,” Coons said in a statement. “Creators around the nation are calling on Congress to lay out clear policies regulating the use and impact of generative AI.”

The draft bill quickly drew applause from music industry groups. The RIAA said it would push for a final version that “effectively protects against this illegal and immoral misappropriation of fundamental rights that protect human achievement.”

“Our industry has long embraced technology and innovation, including AI, but many of the recent generative AI models infringe on rights — essentially instruments of theft rather than constructive tools aiding human creativity,” the group wrote in the statement.

The American Association of Independent Music offered similar praise: “Independent record labels and the artists they work with are excited about the promise of AI to transform how music is made and how consumers enjoy art, but there must be guardrails to ensure that artists can make a living and that labels can recoup their investments.” The group said it would push to make sure that the final bill’s provisions were “accessible to small labels and working-class musicians, not just the megastars.”

A person’s name and likeness — including their distinctive voice — are already protected in most states by the so-called right of publicity, which allows control how your individual identity is commercially exploited by others. But those rights are currently governed by a patchwork of state statutes and common law systems.

The NO FAKES Act would create a nationwide property right in your image, voice, or visual likeness, allowing an individual to sue anyone the produced a “newly-created, computer-generated, electronic representation” of it. Unlike many state-law systems, that right would not expire at death and could be controlled by a person’s heirs for 70 years after their passing.

A tricky balancing act for any publicity rights legislation is the First Amendment and its protections for free speech. In Thursday’s announcementthe NO FAKES Act’s authors said the bill would include specific carveouts for replicas used in news coverage, parody, historical works or criticism.

“Congress must strike the right balance to defend individual rights, abide by the First Amendment, and foster AI innovation and creativity,” Coons said.

The draft was co-authored by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).

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