The GAPP Committee and Department is working with lawmakers, technology experts, partners, and stakeholders to modernize laws and to encourage voluntary solutions and counter technologies.
Without legal limitations, media artists are at risk of enduring significant economic, emotional, or reputational harm. Government policies should not assume companies have a natural incentive to enhance contractual obligations, respect boundaries, or curtail abuse.
It is important for you to understand your image and voice rights. There is a lot to consider before entering into agreements with employers and third parties. Speak to your professional representatives, so you can best make personal and professional choices for your career, brand, finances, and the estate you wish to leave your loved ones.
Digital Image Rights & Right of Publicity
Your image is valuable. Your voice is valuable. Your fan base is valuable. Your performance is valuable.
Companies recognize this value. After all, SAG-AFTRA represents the best in the biz. Unfortunately, companies might wish to steal your likeness for merchandise, advertisements, or to produce video games, live concerts, or movies. This denies you the fruit of your hard work and can potentially harm your legacy.
Union contracts and state and federal laws, including the right of publicity, give media artists the opportunity to consent to and be compensated for specific uses of a likeness. But the current status of the law is antiquated in light of new technologies that enable unprecedented exploitation of your likeness—both during and after your lifetime.
The “Right of Publicity” is a state intellectual property right (much like a copyright) vested in you and your heirs in order to protect the right to use your likeness. You likely have come across some reference to image and voice rights in personal service agreements and endorsement, merchandise, or other licensing deals. The right of publicity safeguards meaningful income streams and provides you a certain level of autonomy, financial reward, and control in the marketplace. Other critical laws protect your privacy, emotional well-being, and reputation, or protect consumers from misleading brand associations and advertisements.
Digital replicas create new challenges that existing rules are ill equipped to handle. Digital replicas are intentional, realistic clones—produced by any number of technological means—of an individual’s face, body, or voice.
Examples of digital replica misuse include the following:
- An audio publisher clones an actor’s voice to construct an audiobook narration.
- A video game company creates a digital replica of a sports broadcaster to announce a football game.
- A hologram company projects a living or deceased musician before a live, paying audience.
- An ad agency or brand creates a replica of a deceased performer for a commercial.
- A creator uses Deepfake algorithms to depict nonconsenting individuals as nude or performing sex acts in motion pictures.
It is important to note that content creators have critical First Amendment rights to use your likeness without permission, such as for the purpose of satire, parody, commentary, criticism, biographical films and documentaries or other newsworthy or educational purposes.
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