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Why Celebrities Are Seeking Copyright Protection for Their Faces

A recent trend among celebrities is the decision to copyright their most iconic and, arguably, their most valuable asset—their faces. This move comes in response to the increasing threat of Deepfakes, with actors and public figures aiming to safeguard their marketable features from unauthorized usage.

The rise of Deepfake technology, as depicted in the "Black Mirror" episode titled "Joan is Awful," serves as a stark warning about the potential dangers of selling one's likeness. Actors and other notable individuals whose images can now be replicated through AI technology face a significant risk. The advanced nature of this technology makes it increasingly challenging to discern between a real image and a deepfake.

Beyond the challenge of identification, there's a growing concern among celebrities about the lack of control over the use of deepfakes. Depending on the quality of the fake, it can damage their reputation and have tangible financial consequences.

Kiera Knightley was among the first celebrities to voice concerns about this technology and announced her intention to seek copyright protection for her face. Currently, a pressing issue is the protection of voice-over actors, a point emphasized during the SAG-AFTRA strikes. These strikes were prompted by studios' use of AI technology to replace human actors, with Netflix proposing the use of AI for stunt doubles. The controversy surrounding this move is fueled by the low wages some studios pay their actors and employees despite record-high profits. The ongoing strikes seek to protect all employees in the film industry.

A critical question arises: Can one claim copyright protection over their face? Presently, copyright is applicable only to literary, artistic, and musical works—human-made creations. However, the rapid expansion of technology, allowing the replication of actors' likenesses with a click of a button, is creating a need for new legal developments. Works solely generated by AI are not eligible for copyright protection.

An argument can be made that actors, through hard work and success, contribute to the creation of their public image, thus warranting protection. An opt-in system may be the solution, requiring individuals whose likeness will be replicated using AI to provide consent before such usage is permitted.

In conclusion, there is currently no legal foundation for claiming copyright protection over one's face. The potential issues arising from this lack of protection are significant. The world awaits to see whether AI technology or affected individuals will make the first move.



By Ira Garbers with edits generated by ChatGPT, January 24, 2024, OpenAI

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