SAG-AFTRA said today that it expects New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill updating the right of publicity and prohibiting the distribution of digitally created, sexually explicit performances – known as “deepfakes” – without the consent of the performer.
The bill was passed unanimously – 60-0 – in the New York Senate and by a vote of 140-1 in the Assembly earlier this month. The union, which has been the moving force behind the bill, called it “a milestone” in its efforts to protect performers against digital image and voice exploitation.
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“This bill is a remarkable step in the ongoing effort to protect our members, and all performers, from the exploitation of our images and voices – the very assets we use to make a living,” said Rebecca Damon, the union’s EVP and president of the New York Local. “Not only that, we have finally protected the families of deceased performers from having to see their loved ones’ images and voices exploited for others’ gain. As technology continues to evolve and become more accessible to those both inside and outside of the industry, it is up to us to make sure our work, our likeness and our legacy are used fairly and consensually.”
SAG-AFTRA says “the bill keeps New York’s protections against the use of a living person’s image and voice, including their ‘digital avatar and digital voice,’ in advertising and trade firmly intact, and continues the trend of protecting against uses in expressive works unless the use is clearly permitted by the First Amendment. The bill, for the first time in 36 years, also prohibits the use of a deceased individual’s voice and image in advertising and for purposes of trade. This glaring oversight in right of publicity jurisprudence has finally been fixed thanks to the work of our members in New York. In addition, the bill prohibits deceptive uses of a deceased performer’s digital image and voice in expressive works. And finally, the bill contains strict prohibitions against the distribution of digitally created, sexually explicit works, sometimes known as ‘deepfakes,’ without clear and written approval from the performer depicted.
“We look forward to the governor signing the bill, expected no later than the end of this year, and to seeing the hard work of our member advocates become law in New York.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a similar “deepfake” bill in October that also had been pushed by SAG-AFTRA that will provide recourse for victims of nonconsensual digital sexually explicit videos. Many of the victims of face-swapping technologies have been actors whose faces have been digitally superimposed on the bodies of porn stars. The California law was the first of its kind to provide civil remedies to victims of deepfake pornography, including statutory damages and preliminary injunctive relief.
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