Hollywood Agency CAA Aims to Help Stars Manage Their Own AI Likenesses

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), a leading entertainment and sports talent agency, is taking a pioneering role in providing AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With the increasing unauthorized use of stars’ digital likenesses, CAA has developed a virtual media storage system for top-tier talent — including actors, athletes, comedians, directors, and musicians — to securely store their digital assets, such as names, images, digital scans, and voice recordings.

This initiative, part of “theCAAvault,” involves actors recording their bodies, faces, movements, and voices using scanning technology to create AI clones. CAA has partnered with AI technology company Veritone to deliver this comprehensive digital asset management solution, as announced earlier this week.

Addressing AI Deepfake Issues

The announcement comes in response to a surge of AI deepfakes of celebrities, often created without their consent. For example, Tom Hanks, a prominent actor and CAA client, reported an AI-generated video of him being used to promote a dental plan without his permission seven months ago. Shannon, CAA’s head of strategic development, highlighted the rampant misuse of clients’ names, images, likenesses, and voices, emphasizing the current inadequacy of legal protections.

Secure Storage and Consent-Based Use

The CAAvault allows CAA clients to store their AI digital doubles and other assets securely, accessible only to authorized users. This system empowers celebrities to control and monetize their digital likenesses as they see fit. Shannon stated, “This is giving the ability to start setting precedents for what consent-based use of AI looks like.” By creating and owning their digital likenesses, clients have a legitimate pathway to work with companies, and it becomes easier to address legal infringements on their rights.

Ownership and Compensation

All assets in the CAAvault are owned by the individual client, who can decide who gets access and on what terms. This approach ensures rightful compensation when companies use their digital likenesses. Shannon noted, “This shouldn’t be a cheaper way to work with somebody… We view [AI clones] as an enhancement rather than being for cost savings.”

Industry Impact and Ethical Considerations

CAA represents high-profile clients like Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, and Zendaya. The use of AI cloning has sparked debates in Hollywood, particularly concerning potential job losses as studios might opt for digital clones over real actors. This was a significant issue during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes, leading to a new agreement with the AMPTP that acknowledged the role of human performers and set guidelines for using digital replicas.

There are also ethical concerns about using AI clones of deceased celebrities, which can distress family members. Robin Williams’ daughter, for instance, opposed an AI-generated voice recording of her father. Nonetheless, some believe that ethical use of AI can preserve and honor iconic performances for future generations. Shannon emphasized CAA’s consent-based approach, stating that they would only work with estates that have the necessary permissions.

Future Availability

While only a select few clients currently use the CAAvault, Shannon mentioned plans to expand its availability industry-wide. The service is not inexpensive, but costs are expected to decrease over time, making it more accessible.

In summary, CAA’s CAAvault aims to set a new standard for managing and protecting celebrities’ digital likenesses, ensuring they retain control and receive proper compensation in an increasingly digital world.