Here’s a legal question for you: if someone creates a deepfake audio recording of an artist or public figure – for example them reading Hamlet’s ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ soliloquy or the lyrics to Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’ – what do you do if you want to get them taken down? We didn’t choose those examples randomly: they’re the focus for a fascinating new dispute around a YouTube channel called Vocal Synthesis. It’s a showcase for the capabilities of deepfake technology: from Frank Sinatra singing Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’ and Bob Dylan singing Britney Spears’ ‘Baby One More Time’ to six US presidents reading the lyrics to NWA’s ‘F**k Tha Police’. And also some recordings where Jay-Z appears to be rapping Hamlet, Billy Joel and the Book of Genesis. Anyway, he’s not happy about this: the channel’s owner claims to have received takedowns on behalf of Roc Nation based on the claim that “this content unlawfully uses an AI to impersonate our client’s voice”.
Waxy reported that the videos were taken down, but they’re back up again now. The piece goes in to the possible legal issues and questions around takedowns for recordings that are clearly labelled as “speech synthesis”. Anyone representing artists and thinking about the legal implications of deepfakes should watch what happens next closely.