Jan 11, 2024 - News

Gov. Lee pitches AI protections for Tennessee musicians

Illustration of a robot carrying a boombox on its shoulder.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee introduced legislation Wednesday to protect music artists from the misuse of their work through artificial intelligence.

  • Tennessee would be the first state in the nation to pass such a law, his office says.

Why it matters: Regulating AI-generated content is at the forefront of copyright law.

  • The popularity of AI-generated music on platforms like TikTok has exploded recently, creating a confusing music landscape that U.S. copyright laws don't address.
  • In some cases, a song is created that impersonates an artist's vocals without their permission.

Zoom out: A lack of blanket federal protections leaves regulation to the states, though there is momentum in Congress for similar legislation.

Details: Tennessee already has a law protecting the misuse of someone's likeness through the use of AI. The proposed update adds protections for a singer's voice, requiring a music artist or songwriter's approval before their songs are programmed into AI software to generate new content.

  • "Artists and musicians at all levels are facing exploitation and the theft of their integrity, identity, and humanity," the Lee administration said in a press release. "This threatens the future of Tennessee's creators, the jobs that they support across the state and country, and the bonds between fans and their favorite bands."
  • The legislation has the backing of prominent music industry groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America and Nashville Songwriters Association International.

What they're saying: NSAI executive director Bart Herbison tells Axios the new legislation is "a hell of a first step."

  • "Everybody's talking about AI globally. Nobody's doing anything. So Tennessee clarifying something that's already an existing tool is an important step. I predict some dominoes will fall elsewhere."
  • "As the technology landscape evolves with artificial intelligence, we're proud to lead the nation in proposing legal protection for our best-in-class artists and songwriters," Lee said.
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