Tennessee’s New ELVIS Act: Free Speech & Free Market

Written by Gabby Land

Last month, the governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee, signed a first of its kind (in the U.S.) bill called the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security (ELVIS) Act. The law aims to address a gap in current state law to protect artists’ name, image and likeness by specifically addressing “new, personalized generative AI cloning models and services that enable human impersonation and allow users to make unauthorized fake works in the image and voice of others” (Office of the Governor, 2024). With Governor Lee signing the ELVIS Act into law in an attempt to protect the integrity of musicians, a complex issue involving US citizens’ first amendment right to free speech and market regulations is posed. On one hand, the act is intended to protect musicians from the dangers of AI, protecting their identity and promoting a fair market. On the other, the breadth of the law may create regulatory burdens that stifle innovation and creativity, which could have detrimental impacts on economic development. 

With AI becoming such a prevalent part of many peoples’ lives nowadays, it is apparent that not everyone is reaping positive benefits from it. The ELVIS Act helps to combat the negative effects that AI has introduced in our society, and its overall intention is notably positive. attempting to increase market fairness and encouraging the use of AI to be more ethical. People will now have the right to take legal action if someone is using AI to deep fake their voice or impersonating them without consent, increasing the fairness and integrity of the music industry. The playing field will be more leveled out if there are consequences for those trying to exploit artists through fraudulent impersonation using AI. Cracking down on AI may lead to positive social impacts in the music industry, as the threat of legal action will discourage theft of musicians’ voices with AI, creating a safer, more trustworthy industry. Further, in today’s day and age, many are worried about the misuse of AI. According to Pew Research Center, 52% of Americans’ concern about AI outweigh their excitement about the new technology (Faverio & Tyson, 2023). With this new act of legislation, Americans’ trust in AI could increase, as now the government is stepping in to protect both citizens from being deceived by AI and having AI steal from artists. Given that the bill is widely supported from country music stars Luke Bryan and Chris Janson, to The Academy of Country Music (Gibbs, 2024), there is a new ethical standard being set for not only the music industry but all markets that AI is increasingly being incorporated into.

Nevertheless, this wide support for the act should not just be taken at face value. It doesn’t take much to see the benefits of the act, but this does not mean the costs, which happen to be serious, should not be examined. First off, the increase of these government regulations may increase the regulatory burden and regulatory chilling. With the act, the use of AI will become more strict, which, while helpful for artists concerned with exploitation, might create issues for those working in the Generative AI industry. To comply with this act, corporations’ legal spending may increase. For example, for smaller companies with lesser funds, “strict regulations can lead to increased costs, bureaucratic processes, and barriers to entry, limiting the participation of smaller players in the AI ecosystem” (Heller, 2023). Further, those working in AI are now more at risk of being sued, which could decrease innovation in general. The ELVIS Act may create a major barrier to enter the AI industry, as now the legality around the use of AI is being questioned heavily under it. market. Curbing the use of gen-AI in business could lead to less efficiency and productivity, causing it to take more money to get things done. This added cost is just passed along to consumers.

The second issue pertains to the manner in which the act is written. According to The Tennessean the bill “lacks the stringent, clear exceptions typically found in right of privacy laws” (Cox, 2024). This broad language may unintentionally create issues for creators and would further contribute to the regulatory chilling. Essentially, forms of entertainment and news like satire and documentaries could be technically at risk under the ELVIS Act. Continuing on, the bill “makes anyone liable for performing or making publicly available another person’s vocal sound, whether the real thing or a readily identifiable simulation, without permission” (Fishman, 2024). While this does tackle the issue of AI misuse, it could also cover impersonators and artists’ use of vocal interpolations, which is similar to the common industry practice of sampling. Further, the act’s language creates enforcement issues. Would you be able to sue the middle school student who makes a TikTok that uses Taylor Swift’s image in the background? Or a small YouTube creator using a random artist’s song in their video? The future for creators is uncertain, as now, even a simple act of referencing another person’s images or voices in a video could risk an expensive lawsuit and compliance costs. Many creatives and innovators may not want to risk a pricey lawsuit and therefore are discouraged from creating and innovating in general. This, in turn, has a negative impact on productivity and economic growth. 

Finally, the ELVIS Act is a part of the increasing trend of using legislation to manage AI. For business, AI regulations cause much confusion and uncertainty to their business practices and processes. According to Yahoo Finance, recently “30 states (plus the District of Columbia) [that] have either proposed or adopted new laws placing constraints, either directly or indirectly, on how AI systems are designed and used” (Keenan, 2024). Businesses and corporations are now forced to adapt to these laws and may have to increase spending to cover the increasing legal cost associated with the news risks that come with the use of AI. The ELVIS Act could inspire more states to follow along in this trend of government intervention into the AI market, which could potentially have negative economic impacts. 

Overall, the ELVIS Act highlights the complexities of the government’s role in the US economy. Looking at the ELVIS Act in a holistic manner uncovers many detrimental issues that could occur and how it could act as inspiration for other states to follow suit in enacting AI legislation that could stifle innovation. Yes, the intention behind the act is positive in providing protection for citizens, specifically combatting the use of AI to exploit musicians. But, looking deeper into the language of the act shows that there could be issues created. With the government stepping into the AI industry with this law, both creativity and innovation could be stifled. 


Cox, H. (2024, March 1). Ai should not undercut content creators’ wages, but the elvis act is the wrong solution. The Tennessean. https://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/contributors/2024/03/01/artificial-intelligence-tennessee-elvis-act-threatens-first-amendment/72774507007/ 

Faverio, M., & Tyson, A. (2023, November 21). What the data says about Americans’ views of Artificial Intelligence. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2023/11/21/what-the-data-says-about-americans-views-of-artificial-intelligence/ 

Fishman, J. (2024, March 1). Could elvis impersonators and tribute bands be sued in Tennessee? possibly under Ai Bill. The Tennessean. https://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/contributors/2024/03/01/tennessee-artificial-intelligence-bill-too-broad-elvis-impersonators-tribute-bands/72773778007/ 

Gibbs, A. (2024, March 21). TN gov. Lee Signs Elvis act into law in honky-tonk, protects musicians from ai abuses. The Tennessean. https://www.tennessean.com/story/entertainment/music/2024/03/21/elvis-act-tennessee-gov-lee-signs-act-musicians-ai/73019388007/ 

Keenan, A. (2024, April 14). A patchwork of state AI laws is creating “a mess” for US businesses. Yahoo! Finance. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/a-patchwork-of-state-ai-laws-is-creating-a-mess-for-us-businesses-080009421.html 

Heller, I. (2023, May 17). Will regulating AI hinder innovation?. Trullion. https://trullion.com/blog/ai-regulation/

Office of the Governor. (2024, January 10). Tennessee First in the Nation to Address AI Impact on Music Industry. Tennessee State Government. https://www.tn.gov/governor/news/2024/1/10/tennessee-first-in-the-nation-to-address-ai-impact-on-music-industry.html