AI, Hollywood agency and tech start-up aim to protect artists

AI, Hollywood agency and tech start-up aim to protect artists

Talent agency WME on Tuesday announced a partnership with technology firm Vermilio that it hopes will help protect its clients from having their likeness misused through artificial intelligence technology.

Vermilio has created a platform, Trace ID, that can protect WME clients from theft of their likeness and intellectual property by using AI technology to track images. The partnership will also look for ways to use the technology to allow customers to monetize their likeness and image.

The use of AI and how to protect these assets was a major point of contention in last year’s actors’ strike. Even after the agreement with the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA was ratified, some actors remained dissatisfied with AI protections. For example, the contract does not prevent studios from populating “synthetic fake” screens, which can be created through AI by combining the recognizable features of real actors to sculpt a character.

AI-generated images also spread online, such as fake, sexually explicit images of Taylor Swift that appeared online last week.

WME said its primary concern is the safety of its customers.

Chris Jacquemin, WME’s head of digital strategies, said: “We’ve been working on this for some time to try to tackle this issue in a way that gives our clients at least a clear solution to the problem on a larger scale. So that we can get security.”

Deepfakes involving well-known actors and entertainers have been an issue for years. However, the relatively recent emergence of more sophisticated AI has exacerbated the problem. This month, a fake advertisement of cookware manufacturing company Le Creuset surfaced on Facebook. It allegedly featured Ms Swift offering free cookware in exchange for users’ personal information. Neither Ms. Swift nor Le Creuset were involved in the promotion.

“You have no real ability to stop it other than manually stumbling across it,” Mr. Jacquemin said of that type of scam. “Vermilio begins to automate that process.”

WME customers will now provide their identity digital data to Vermilio to be recorded and preserved on the blockchain. Vermilio said it would then be able to track and authenticate customers’ images that appear online. Those images can then either be removed, or the customer may decide to ask for payment. Vermilio will get a share of that revenue.

WME and Vermilio said the partnership could also help compensate artists, for example, if studios want to use AI to translate content from someone’s voice into other languages.

Dan Neely, the entrepreneur behind Vermilio, said: “With this authenticity, talent can provide fans the novel entertainment experiences they want while protecting and empowering themselves.”

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