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Tennessee has become the first state to enact legislation introducing new safeguards for the voices of songwriters, performers, and celebrities from artificial intelligence and deepfakes, as Governor Bill Lee signed the ELVIS Act (Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security) into law on March 21, 2024. 

Lawmakers, artists, singers, songwriters, and music industry professionals gathered around Gov. Lee at Robert’s Western World Honky Tonk on Broadway to witness the signing of the landmark legislation. Notable country music stars Luke Bryan and Chris Jansen were among those in attendance, expressing their gratitude for this update to state law.

Previously, Tennessee law did not explicitly include voice as a protected right, along with name, photograph, and likeness. Further, the law only protected such rights from unauthorized use in advertising. This landmark legislation amends the Personal Rights Protection Act of 1984 to add “voice” as a protected personal right and expands protection of such personal rights against all unauthorized uses.

The legislation comes at a time in which the use of AI to generate audio, video, and photo imitations of musicians, politicians, and private individuals, in the context of entertainment, sexual harassment, fraud, and election interference, is on the rise. The ELVIS Act will go into effect on July 1, 2024. The Tennessee entertainment industry supports more than 61,000 jobs across the state and contributes $5.8 billion to the GDP.

“From Beale Street to Broadway, to Bristol and beyond, Tennessee is known for our rich artistic heritage that tells the story of our great state,” said Gov. Lee in an official Governor’s Office press release. “As the technology landscape evolves with artificial intelligence, I thank the General Assembly for its partnership in creating legal protection for our best-in-class artists and songwriters.”

Three Separate Causes of Civil Action Enacted by ELVIS Act

We spoke to Tennessee Sen. Jack Johnson’s office, and Senior Legislative Advisor Luke Gustafson advised that the subdivisions (a)(1)-(3) in Section 6 of HB 2091 creates three separate causes of action:

(1) Any person is liable to a civil action if the person “knowingly uses or infringes upon the use of an individual’s name, photograph, voice, or likeness in any medium for purposes of advertising products, merchandise, goods, or services or for purposes of fundraising, solicitation of donations, purchases of products, merchandise, goods, or services, without [the] individual’s prior consent, or, in the case of a minor, the prior consent of such minor's parent or legal guardian, or in the case of a deceased individual, the consent of the executor or administrator, heirs, or devisees of such deceased individual.”

(2) A person is liable to a civil action if the person “publishes, performs, distributes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to the public an individual's voice or likeness, with knowledge that use of the voice or likeness was not authorized by the individual or, in the case of a minor, the minor's parent or legal guardian, or in the case of a deceased individual, the executor or administrator, heirs, or devisees of such deceased individual.”

(3) A person is liable to a civil action if the person “distributes, transmits, or otherwise makes available an algorithm, software, tool, or other technology, service, or device, the primary purpose or function of which is the production of an individual's photograph, voice, or likeness without authorization from the individual or, in the case of a minor, the minor's parent or legal guardian, or in the case of a deceased individual, the executor or administrator, heirs, or devisees of such deceased individual.”


Introduced in January, the legislation garnered support amongst legislators on both sides of the aisle with House Majority Leader William Lamberth and Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson leading the charge.

The legislation has been widely supported by music and entertainment industry groups, including the Academy of Country Music, American Association of Independent Music, the American Music Association, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Broadcast Music Inc., Church Music Publishers Association, Christian Music Trade Association, Folk Alliance International, Global Music Rights, Global Music Association, The Living Legends Foundation, Music Artists Coalition, Nashville Musicians Association, Rhythm & Blues Foundation, Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, Songwriters of North America, The Recording Academy, and Tennessee Entertainment Commission, among others.

At the same time, concerns have been raised by some, including Vanderbilt Law School entertainment and intellectual property law professor Joseph Fishman, that the law is overbroad and could bar or chill legitimate conduct or speech. Interested parties should carefully monitor how the law is interpreted and enforced by courts in the coming months with the help of a team of attorneys competent in First Amendment, AI, personal rights, and intellectual property issues.

Capitol Hill legislators are also paying attention to the misuse of AI and deepfakes. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced the No AI FRAUD (Artificial Intelligence Fake Replicas and Unauthorized Duplications) Act, and the Senate has introduced the NO FAKES (Nurture Originals, Foster Art, and Keep Entertainment Safe) Act. These are both legislative bills aimed at providing individual property rights in likeness and voice.

We will continue to monitor legislative action and litigation at the federal and state levels concerning AI.

About Our Authors

Ashley Harbin is an attorney in the Intersection of Business and Government (IBG) practice. Based in Nashville, Ashley advises clients with interests impacted by Tennessee state and local governments. Ashley represents clients in a multitude of governmental relations interests, including lobbying before the Tennessee General Assembly. She assists clients with identifying and setting priorities for their legislative agendas, drafting proposed legislation, and advocating for her clients within state agencies and the legislature. Ashley has experience across a variety of industries and associations, including education, financial, automotive and transportation.

Jin Yoshikawa serves as the Adams and Reese Artificial Intelligence Team Leader, within the law firm’s Global Intellectual Property practice. Based in the Nashville office, Jin has an IP litigation practice that focuses on federal trademark and anti-counterfeiting cases in courts throughout the United States, trademark cases before the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeals Board, and other cases involving IP rights. He has years of experience serving diverse and global clients, including multinational pharmaceutical companies, doctors and hospital systems, beverage manufacturers, tech ventures, advertising agencies, and online content providers. Jin received his Bachelor of Science from Columbia University, studying Computer Science with a specialty in AI. He received his law degree from Vanderbilt University, where he served as the editor in chief of the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law and received a Scholastic Excellence Award in Professor Daniel Gervais’s class, Robots, AI & the Law.