Knoxville musician proud of new TN law protecting artists from AI

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee is the first state in the country to pass a law specifically protecting the use of musical artists’ voices from artificial intelligence under the ‘Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security” or ELVIS Act.

“Nowadays, they can go anywhere and everywhere with AI,” said local singer and harmonics, Michael Crawley.

Crawley has been in the music industry for nearly 50 years, playing for three Knoxville bands Crawdaddy Jones, The Tennessee Sheiks, and Crawlspace.

As an artist, he said he is proud to be a Tennessean – living in the state that is the first to protect its musicians from artificial intelligence.

“We work really hard just to get to where we’re at,” he said. “Whether we are writing, whether we are singing, whether we’re playing, whether we’re performing, it’s a really tough business.”

As a smaller artist, he creates nearly everything for his brand himself, and he said laws like this one are incredibly important for protecting their unique creativity and art.

“We do pretty much everything you know. We manage ourselves. We do the websites. Furthermore, we write. We sing. We do everything we can,” said Crawley. “I think it is significant to protect what we got. Our images are basically all we have, so for somebody to go to bat for us, I think that’s pretty cool.”

While he is proud to live in this state, he is also proud to be an artist in Knoxville where there are spaces for people like him to thrive. Particularly at events like the Big Ears Festival, where artists and musicians can come together to learn and create.

“So all these guys come into town from all over and they and we get to relate on a musical level artist level. Because 99% of them are just like us. You know, they’re struggling. They’re trying to make music anyway shape and form, and you know they get to do it here and just a crazy cool level,’ said Crawley.

He also said he is pleased to see people advocating for them in the legislature.

“It’s important. It’s just a significant part of music to have your own identity,” he said.   

The ELVIS Act builds on existing state law that protects someone’s likeness by adding “voice” to the realm it protects, ensuring each local artist can hold onto that identity. It also states that anyone who does infringe upon someone’s likeness, voice, or image is liable to civil action, or could be criminally charged with a class A misdemeanor.