Immortalising Your Likeness with AI and Blockchain?

The Digital Frontier of Identity and Ownership

The Rise of Decentralized Identity Management

As people increasingly live out parts of their lives online, the management of digital identity is becoming essential for security and privacy. Traditional centralized models have shown vulnerabilities, from data breaches, to misuse of personal information, to abuse of contracts. In contrast, decentralized identity systems powered by blockchain are transformative - giving users back control over their personal details. This shift towards self-sovereign identity promises greater autonomy and security, but also raises important questions about the future implications for personality rights and copyright in the digital realm.

Intellectual Property in the Age of Deepfakes

The entertainment industry faces an unprecedented challenge as AI-generated deepfakes blur the lines between reality and fabrication. A recent case highlighted by Universal Music Group underscores the tension between innovation and intellectual property rights - when viral popularity meets moral and commercial responsibilities. An unauthorized AI-generated song featuring Drake and The Weeknd exemplifies the complex legalities surrounding the use of artists’ voices without consent. These instances underscore the urgent need for updated laws that recognize and protect the nuanced aspects of an artist’s performance and likeness.

Legal Uncertainties in Generative AI

The legality of using copyrighted works to train generative AI models remains shrouded in uncertainty. Advocates argue that such practices fall under fair use, promoting freedom of expression and innovation. Critics, however, view it as a direct threat to creators' livelihoods. As detailed by The Verge, there are key unresolved issues regarding the copyright-ability of AI outputs and the claims over content created by these models. With significant cases pending in courts, the answers to these questions will shape the future of intellectual property rights in the age of AI.

Hollywood’s Battle with AI

Generative AI has stirred up contentious debates within the film industry. SAG-AFTRA's recent strike revealed proposals suggesting that performers’ likenesses could be used indefinitely after a single day's pay. Despite denials from AMPTP, this revelation sparked concerns over ethical implications and actors' futures. ZDNET's coverage on this issue highlights the importance of explicit consent and fair compensation – principles that should extend to all forms of art impacted by AI technologies.

Tackling Unauthorized Use of Your Likeness

High-profile cases like those involving Scarlett Johansson demonstrate the ease with which recognizable figures can become victims of unauthorized deepfake advertisements. Her lawyer's response, as reported by Sky News, emphasizes the readiness to employ legal remedies against such infringements. This illustrates the growing demand for mechanisms that not only detect but also enforce the protection of one's virtual identity. Such technologies will likely need to become more accessible and widely available to ensure everyone - not just budding actors or A-list celebrities, but also your common Joe - can be confident that just because they posted a picture online, that their likeness is not used in movies or promotions without them receiving compensation.

Blockchain: Enabling Copyright Protection and Compensation

Blockchain's immutable ledger offers a unique solution for managing and authenticating the use of audio/video avatars, paving the way for decentralized permissioning systems. By establishing protocols for informed consent and remuneration, blockchain could revolutionize how people manage their virtual identities. As indicated by the tentative deal from Engadget's report, such technological solutions may soon need to become standard practice, empowering individuals while nurturing creativity and innovation in the arts. Employing such an approach would give studios access to an endless array of digitised actors - for background or even main character use, allowing each individual to set their own price for use.

Update our Copyright Laws

Copyright laws struggle to keep pace with technological advances that make it possible to immortalize our likenesses digitally. An overhaul is necessary to ensure comprehensive protections—from visual and vocal characteristics to signature speaking styles. Blockchain technology provides a promising framework for authentication and automatic compensation, enabling decentralized governance of our digital selves. To maintain control over our virtual personas and reap rightful benefits, it is imperative to adopt a system that acknowledges and rewards contributions in this rapidly evolving landscape. Right now, not only is copyright material being sucked up with reckless abandon to train models, but people are without protections to their own voice - where with the hitherto unseen ubiquity of AI generated content, means that there is significantly less incentive for artists to create, promote, and distribute truly fresh and creative content.

Published 13th Nov 2023