New York Bill to Protect Actors From AI Voice and Likeness Replicas Passes Assembly

“[These are] the most essential parts of who we are and the work we do,” SAG’s Rebecca Damon says of the Digital Contracts Act

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A law that would protect actors’ voices and likenesses from being copied or used without permission in New York state passed its assembly Friday morning.

The Digital Replica Contracts Act, which was previously approved unanimously in the New York State Senate, comes after Scarlett Johansson alleged that OpenAI created an AI voice that was too close to her own. The “Black Widow” star had turned down a request to provide a voice for ChatGPT’s app, but was unpleasantly surprised to see the release of the voice “Sky” which was marketed by its CEO using the name of Johansson’s acclaimed film about near-future AI, “Her.”

“The bill demands that performers have informed consent and proper representation, by a lawyer or a union, before a company can obtain rights to digitally replicate their voice or likeness in place of physical work,” the Screen Actors Guild said in a statement shared with TheWrap. SAG-AFTRA noted that sometimes these rights are “buried within the fine print of contracts or terms of service,” which may lead performers to unknowingly sign away their rights.

“SAG-AFTRA applauds today’s legislative decision to protect our members’ digital voices and likenesses from nonconsensual job replacement. Federal and state regulations are crucial for meaningful, protective guardrails around the unethical use of rapidly advancing AI technology,” SAG-AFTRA Chief Labor Policy Officer and New York Local Executive Director Rebecca Damon said.

“Our members’ voices and likenesses are the most essential parts of who we are and the work we do. We will continue to advocate for protections in contract and in law,” Damon continued.

“Digital cloning has arrived,” said the bill’s cosponsor, Senate Labor Committee Chair Jessica Ramos. “It’s urgent we protect these performers against the threat unregulated AI poses to their livelihoods and agency on the job. We can’t afford to lose a generation of creative artists because our laws couldn’t keep up with emerging technologies.”

Assemblywoman Helene E. Weinstein, who also sponsored the bill, said, “This bill creates the guardrails we urgently need today to protect performers from unethical and unconscionable uses of technology that would replace their talent and their ability to make a living.”

The bill will now go to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul for her signature in order for the bill to be passed into law.

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