Using AI, a Hollywood agency and a tech startup aim to protect artists

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Talent agency WME announced Tuesday a partnership with technology firm Vermillio that it hopes will protect its clients from the misuse of their images using artificial intelligence technology.

Vermillio has created a platform, Trace ID, that could insulate WME clients from theft of their image and intellectual property by using artificial intelligence technology to track images. The partnership will also look at ways to use technology to allow clients to monetize their image and likeness.

The use of AI and how to protect these assets was a major point of contention in last year's actors' strike. Even after an agreement with SAG-AFTRA, the actors union, it was ratified, some artists remained dissatisfied with AI protections. The contract, for example, does not prohibit studios from populating screens with “synthetic fakes,” which can be created using AI by fusing recognizable characteristics of real actors to fabricate a character.

AI-generated images are also proliferating online, like the fake, sexually explicit images of Taylor Swift that surfaced online last week.

WME said its main concern was protecting its customers.

“We've been at this for a while to try to address this issue so that our clients have protections to at least begin to address what is clearly a rampant problem,” said Chris Jacquemin, head of digital strategies at WME.

Deepfakes involving well-known actors and animators have been a problem for years. However, the relatively recent emergence of more sophisticated AI has exacerbated the problem. This month, a fake ad from the cookware manufacturer. Le Creuset appeared on Facebook. It showed what was supposedly Ms Swift offering free kitchen utensils in exchange for users' personal information. Neither Ms. Swift nor Le Creuset participated in the promotion.

“The only real chance to stop it is to trip on it manually,” Jacquemin said of that type of scam. “Vermillio starts to automate that process.”

WME customers will now hand over their digital identification data to Vermillio to record and secure on the blockchain. Vermillio said he could then track and authenticate customer images that appear online. Those images could then be deleted or customers could decide to request payment. Vermillio would get a portion of that revenue.

WME and Vermillio said the partnership could also help compensate artists if studios wanted to, for example, use AI to have someone's voice translate content into other languages.

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



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