In an effort to provide its musical artists some protection from AI-generated deepfakes of their voices, the state of Tennessee recently enacted ELVIS seeking a cure. Specifically, Tennessee passed the Ensuring Likeness, Voice and Image Security (ELVIS) Act, which goes into effect July 1 of this year. The ELVIS Act replaced Tennessee’s existing rights law (the Personal Rights Protection Act, PRPA), which only protected a person’s name, photograph, or likeness and limited that protection to only barring use in advertising. PRPA also added postmortem rights in an effort to protect the state’s most famous resident, Mr. Presley himself. Interestingly, unique to Tennessee and two other states, the protected rights under the act are characterized as property rights as opposed to rights of publicity, which is more typical.

Under ELVIS, to the list of a person’s attributes covered by the PRPA, Tennessee added voice. It also removed the “use in advertising” limit from PRPA, so that any use of the protected attributes without the subject’s consent is a violation of law. As a direct result, ELVIS makes illegal the unauthorized use of AI-generated voices, among other things. In addition, it adds a civil right of action on top of the existing criminal regime. This approach is somewhat similar to proposed legislation in the entertainment industry capital, California, where AB 1836 would modify the current postmortem publicity statute by including “digital replica of a deceased personality in an audiovisual work or sound recording, in any manner related to the work performed by the deceased personality while living” without regard to whether the replica is used on a product or for advertising.

With the rise of AI, the federal government is considering action as well, though rights of publicity and related rights have traditionally been rights subject to state law. Specifically, two bills have been introduced at the federal level—the No Artificial Intelligence Fake Replicas and Unauthorized Duplications Act (No AI FRAUD Act), which was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Nurture, Originals, Foster Art and Keep Entertainment Safe Act (NO FAKES Act), which was introduced in the U.S. Senate in October of 2023.

Tennessee, wanting “a little less conversation, a little more action, please,” decided not to wait on Congress. Instead, Tennessee acted. And it acted with one voice, as the Tennessee legislature, which has been wrestling with many contentious issues of late, passed ELVIS unanimously. So now, the King of Rock and Roll is alive and well, protecting fellow artists against AI-generated deepfakes, at least in Tennessee.